"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis
HUGE news! I am going to be in a book! Specifically, I’m participating in the YA villain-themed anthology, Because You Love to Hate Me curated by Ameriie, which is being published in July 2017 by Bloomsbury simultaneously in the US and UK, and as an audiobook in the US and UK. I’m not participating as an author but as a booktuber/blogger. More information below the cut! Aaaah!
You can check out Ameriie's announcement video here (and the others at their individual channels & spaces). Also theofficial Publisher's Weekly announcement here.
Add Because You Love to Hate Me to your Goodreads shelf here.
THE AUTHORS INVOLVED:
A lot of y'all seemed to like my 5 Fantasy Authors I Fangirl Over post, so I thought that I'd go over more books that I've read and learned from as a reader about my own reading tastes. (And I don't mean learning facts - though I once did write about that as well).
As a reader, my reading tastes are always changing. And I realized that:
A.) I don't like when fantasy books start off with the main character as a kid (though the MC is an actual adult). I actually like middle grade novels; I like the voice, I like the characters, etc. But when fantasy books begin by showing us the main characters as a child - or even begin at age fourteen and then head to age seventeen - I start to wonder when the story will actually begin. Plus, the voice isn't the humorous, upbeat middle grade voice; it's the voice of an adult showing you how the character came to be where they are now. On a practical level, I can acknowledge that that's the way our lives work - if we're truly coming of age, there's no one "starting point." We learn many, many lessons along the way. At age fourteen, something guides you as you continue developing on through to seventeen and such. Yet I no longer have the patience to slog through those beginnings to see what kind of character I'm following (yeah, a younger version of you reflects the older version but not 100%; I'd like to think that I'm much more interesting now than I was at a younger age lol). Stories with an older, more "classic" writing style, also often considered a more "literary" style, tend to do this because pacing is of less importance. And I find myself skimming the beginnings when they do. Take, for instance, The Lies of Locke Lamora. I'm only on page 10 or so. I'm already bored not because it's badly written but because that's the kind of beginning I'm not a huge fan of. On a surface level, the writing is great. It's establishing the suspense of who Locke Lamora is and how he got to be the way he is and what exactly he is now, given his criminal start as a child. But for this reader, I'm ready for something else to happen.
B.) I've said before that I like when romance is a side plot, but what I really meant is that I like when it's tightly tied to the main plot. To me, that's a slight difference. Take for instance the Captive Prince trilogy. I hesitate to call it a fantasy romance, though in many ways that is exactly what the books are. And that's because the romantic aspect is tied very, very tightly to the political intrigue of two princes trying to reclaim their thrones. Every one of their conversations has this undercurrent of tension, even when they're discussing what they'll do next to thwart the Regent. I looove books with that kind of tension. I often dogear the conversations and scenes that I love best -- frequently, those are the romantic scenes, and if the book has tied the romance tightly to the other plot, that means almost every conversation is one that I'd like to dogear. And those are the books that I love best. Another great example? Summers at Castle Auburn. The romance there also involves other obstacles that the couple often discusses when they're together, and when you've read the book and know how both sides have grown and how they see things, you can go back through and read the scenes again, see how much is left unsaid. Definitely dog ear worthy.
B. Part II) I love romances where the main character thinks that he/she loves another person while the romantic interest waits for them to realize, hey, I'm better for you. YES. I love romances tied to the coming of age plot. The main character is innocent and naive. He/she has a crush on someone else. He/she doesn't see what's right in front of him/her. See, even though I recognize the practical elements of starting off as a kid, I feel like this right here is another good way of showing how the main character goes through a lot of change in a short period of time. Here's a lesson that the main character learns and grows from. Some people might consider this a love triangle - I don't. The tension is so perfect in these scenes, where you as a reader can tell that the real romantic interest is there; we have to wait until the main character realizes it as well. *Sigh*
C.) My favorite kind of openings give us a hint of who the main character is while setting up the major conflict. The Winner's Curse has one of my favorite openings. From the beginning, you know that Kestrel likes to gamble with sailors and frequently wins because she's more clever than people expect. She also disobeys her father in gambling; this is what she does on her own time, for herself. You already get a sense of her character within those first couple of pages, and then not long afterwards she's at the slave block... and buys Arin, which sets off the central conflict for the book and trilogy. I also just bought Riddle-Master. In the first chapter, the main character is ordering his family around - telling them to get to their individual duties. We see his responsibilities, we see his every day life, we see his love for his family. And yet we see his family recognize his lies (they have a specific dynamic with each other), and he has to admit to what he did when he was grieving for their parents. We get a sense of their backstory and how that loss has affected each of the family members but also how the backstory then sets off the central conflict (he set off on an adventure when his parents died, answered a riddle, won a prize-- but, oh, the prize meant more than he realized). It's such a brilliant beginning that I immediately bought the entire trilogy; I felt like my brain was getting bigger just by reading it.
Do you ever read books and think about how you've learned more about yourself and your reading habits? What kind of tropes do you avoid and what kind of openings do you like best?
Even though I'm moving in a couple of months, I seem to have a penchant for buying books. I mean, my bookshelf is teeming with books that I still haven't read and WHAT DO I DO? I BUY EVEN MORE BOOKS. Ugh, I dread when I'll have to lug these sluggers with me to the Post Office for shipping. BUT ANYWAY LET'S BE CHEERFUL. LET'S LOOK AT THE AWESOMENESS I BOUGHT AND HAVE READ!
The Books That I've Read:
1. The Winner's Kiss - Marie Rutkoski
I LOVE the Winner's trilogy. The Winner's Crime was on my Best Books of 2015 list, The Winner's Curse was onmy Best Books of 2014 list. I nominated The Winner's Crime in the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards and probably have mentioned these books at multiple points, in multiple posts in this blog (5 Fantasy Authors I Fangirl Over,Preview of 2015 Books, Review: The Winner's Curse, TBR: Releases to Watch Out For, Review: The Winner's Crime, My Reading Profile, & more). It should thus come as no surprise to you that I pre-ordered The Winner's Kiss and spent the 29th reading that book. Also spent the weekend and week before trying to sneak peeks at the book through Amazon excerpt, which is an obsessive habit I have when I reaaaaaally want to read a book (until I shake and distract myself by doing something else).
Ahem, anyways. This book surprised me in a lot of ways, all of them good. I also understand why they changed the covers -- the girl in the ball gown no longer fits the horrific scenes of war. If the first book set the grounds for the differences between the two countries and the romance, establishing our link with Arin and Kestrel; and if the second book delved deeper into strategy, games, political intrigue, alliances and quiet rebellion amid heartbreaking loss; then the third book was about all of that coming to head. War. Violence. The consequences of the politics between these three major countries. The differences in beliefs and how they've shaped our characters' attitudes and hopes but how there's still common ground to be had. The power of love and stories, forgiveness and new life amid an onslaught of death. As always, lots of character development, beautiful writing, romance, political intrigue, strategy, intriguing world-building, and more. Yes to these books.
I am afraid to read The Raven King. I was one of the lucky few whose pre-order had shipped out early - who people were threatening (don't you dare release spoilers!) and begging (release spoilers! I can't wait). By this account, I should've already finished the book, especially because spoilers are out there and I don't want to be spoiled. I've mentioned my love for The Raven Cycle multiple times, and it was one of my most anticipated books of the year. Yet I have not finished the book. I am afraid.
Do you ever get like this? Where a book can be so hyped and your expectations so large that suddenly you don't even feel like reading the book anymore? I'm on page 84, I believe, and that was all good and I was still excited. But then I started to embrace the bad habits-- I started to skim ahead, I looked at the ending. That's not me saying "bad book" but rather a part of that fear. What will the book do? I love Maggie's writing and I had to slap myself out of that one because hey, skimming is not enjoying the writing in the same way. It's a strange situation. I don't want to not read the book - it'll sit on the shelves and god knows when I'll get to it later, if I don't get it to now. Yet reading now means some part of the experience might be ruined -- when you're not even sure you want to read at the time because you've built the book up, why read it?
So I turn to you my fellow readers. What can I do now? Do you have any tips to combat the pressure of hyped books and any tips to get back into the reading experience and the experience of The Raven Cycle? I don't think I'll have the time to reread the previous novels, and the recaps aren't the same, but...? Help!
Tina Makes the Bookish Rounds is a feature that will let you know about recent MG/YA/NA book related news. I'll post about articles from the publishing industry, cover reveals, discussions from the book community, the latest tv/movie news, and giveaways that you're hosting. If you would like to follow along with cover reveals during the week, see my Pinterest. (If you're interested in how I make these posts, here's your guide.)
As the release dates for the adaptations of the final books in The Maze Runner series and the Divergent trilogy approach, people are hungry for the successor to the young adult franchise throne. After The 5th Wave movie adaptation yielded less than expected in the box office, some film analysts have written that no YA adaptation could truly follow in the footsteps of The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter and that the young adult adaptation market was dead.
(Will future films ever reach the level of success that those "Big 3" did? I don't know that anyone can make a prediction of that magnitude, but films like Divergent, Maze Runner, The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay, Paper Towns, etc. were still considered successful even without becoming a "Big 3." And I do think that future films have, at least, the potential to reach that level of success.)
Most of the aforementioned articles, though intended to analyze the future success of the YA adaptation market, fail to take into account the perspective of its target audience, avid fans of young adult books. While they may not live up to the massive success of Harry Potter, these adaptations have the potential to do well and have even caught the attention of Hollywood studios.
Here's to hoping that they're greenlit soon.
1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: Every November on the fictional island of Thisby, its inhabitants compete in a dangerous race riding legendary, deadly water horses.
Movies like War Horse (also an adaptation) and Seabiscuit prove that there are plenty of filmgoers who find stories focusing on horses compelling. Like Stiefvater's writing, the story premise has a cinematic quality, and may appeal to fans of The Hunger Games who don't necessarily want another dystopian tale but appreciate the danger inherent to The Scorpio Races. Stiefvater would appeal to Hollywood backers looking for an already established fandom; she has sold millions of copies of her books and maintains an active online presence. As for merchandise, which has typically been associated with several YA films, I can picture water horse stuffed animals and the ribbons that riders wear sold alongside the t-shirts and artwork that would accompany any film. Stiefvater has also posted a recipe for November cakes, a treat written into the culture of Thisby.
Status: In September 2015, Focus Features announced that Matt Sobel would direct The Scorpio Races based off the screenplay written by Jack Thorne.
2. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani: Two best friends are kidnapped to attend the legendary School for Good and Evil, which trains its ordinary students to become fairy tale heroes and villains.
Technically, The School for Good and Evil is middle grade, not young adult, but it should still appeal to YA fans, especially given its premise. The success of series like Marissa Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles and Sarah Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses prove that the young adult market remains interested in fresh spins on fairy tales while popular TV shows like ABC's Once Upon a Time (now in its sixth season) highlight the interest of a mainstream adult audience. The School for Good and Evil also has its own legion of fans: in a promotional article for the trilogy's conclusion, which was published in July 2015, Publisher's Weekly reported that over 500,000 copies had been sold worldwide. Soman Chainani hosts an online Youtube show, Ever Never TV, to promote the books and interact with his fans.
Status: Universal Studios optioned The School for Good and Evil, but as Chainani wrote on his website this past January, the script is currently being rewritten.
3. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson: A girl follows travel instructions written in envelopes from her dead aunt, which she must open one by one, and backpacks through Europe without a cell phone or guidebook.
I was in eighth grade when the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants adaptation was released, and I can still remember my excitement. Capturing a similar adventurous summer feel, 13 Little Blue Envelopes is in the unique position as a YA contemporary novel of appealing to fans who don't want another teary If I Stay or The Fault in Our Stars but who liked the recent journey-focused story in Paper Towns. Fans of 13 Little Blue Envelopes will love watching the characters come to life onscreen while a wider audience, unfamiliar with the novel's contents, will be caught in the suspense of not knowing what instructions the next envelope would contain. All moviegoers can imagine what adventure they would plan or take with their own set of envelopes. As one of the early YA writers and a close friend of YA author celebrity John Green, Maureen Johnson has a significant fanbase that should also draw Hollywood's attention.
Status: In conjunction with New Line Cinema, Alloy Entertainment purchased the rights to develop 13 Little Blue Envelopes as a feature film in April 2015.
4. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: A girl no longer remembers the tragedy that happened at her family's summer home but seeks to discover the truth behind all the lies.
The rich setting -- a private island off the coast of Massachusetts -- calls to mind the previously successful adaptation of Gossip Girl and the notoriety of the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard. Slipping into the lives of the wealthy Sinclairs enables a kind of escapist fantasy even as the truth and the main character's confusion lend a heartbreaking edge to the suspense of what happened two summers ago. Random House came up with a catchy slogan to encompass the fanbase: if anyone asks you how the book ends, just LIE. Like Maureen Johnson, E. Lockhart is a well-established YA author and friends with John Green, whose blurb on the first edition proclaims that We Were Liars is "utterly unforgettable."
Status: Imperative Entertainment hired Stephanie Shannon to write the screenplay in April 2015.
Bonus: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, The Fever by Megan Abbott, This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle, and Just One Day/Year by Gayle Forman are also movie and tv adaptations widely held as promising.
(Ask me more about these, and I'll tell you why ;)).
Bonus (X2): Set for 2016 releases, the tearjerker A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, fan-favorite Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling, and star-studded Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs look like promising adaptations as well. And this year we can prove to all the naysayers of YA and YA films that no, they are not dead even if they don't reach the "Big 3" level of success.
Ah, but now you're asking, "So, Christina, what are you trying to do? Is this a call to action? Is this a letter to studios? Are you updating all of us on the status of these films?"
It sort of is a call to action. I wish studios were listening. Sometimes I think that what gets made into a film, or what's optioned, are things that I can't ever actually imagine playing out on the big screen - like whoever optioned the book wasn't actually envisioning the movie but just keeps hoping for the success of the Big 3.
But I'd like to hope that's not what all the options mean; I'd like to hope that the YA market stays alive and well. I'd like to hope that the movies above will eventually get greenlit, as I think that they particularly would be successful. And I am updating y'all on the status of those adaptations, so that we can all discuss the awesome potential of those adaptations and maybe our collective enthusiasm will push for those books to be made into their respective adaptations. Maybe a studio representative will see this post (ha ha ha), and push for those adaptations as well. Who knows? But above all, I do love to discuss YA books, so let's chat!
Do you think that those adaptations will be successful? What books would you add to the list?
There's no question that awards help a writer's career. Not only do they often boost sales, involve a money prize, and offer prestige and free promotion for a book, but the author also gets to mention winning that award for the rest of his/her career. What makes me curious about awards is whether there really is a sort of differential perception in adult, YA, and MG audiences.
For adult books, it seems like awards are universally acknowledged as a way of distinguishing literary merit. And for adult books, it's been shown repeatedly how winning them boosts sales. I remember returning from a MEG at NYU with a professor and discussing books with him; he said, well, of course you can't go wrong with a book that won the Man-Booker Prize (he'd mentioned how he loved The Luminaries or was going to read it soon--something along those lines). In the kidlit market, I wonder to what extent awards offer that same sort of prestige. Librarians seem to hold an even greater sway in kidlit, parents asking about books for their children, and one of the easiest things to do is to recommend an award winner. I'm not terribly familiar with the MG book blogosphere, but my impression is that it seems smaller than that of YA blogosphere. There are tons and tons of YA book bloggers and booktubers and so on--can we say then that booksellers and librarians might hold greater influence over MG sales than YA sales, given that bloggers are such a huge mass in the latter but not the former? Maybe that's an unproven, unfounded assumption. But I am curious about the perception of awards in the different communities.
It was reported that winning the Printz and Newbery greatly affected sales for Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson, and Laura Ruby's Bone Gap. Print sales of Last Stop went up by 677% and 264% for Bone Gap. My guess for part of that discrepancy in sales increase is that Last Stop was the second picture book ever to win the Newbery and Matt de la Peña was its first Hispanic author winner. Naturally that got people curious. Of course, maybe Bone Gap was already selling more than Last Stop, and its percentage increase was thus smaller. But I wonder whether part of the discrepancy is also because awards matter more for younger--and paradoxically older--readers; in the YA community, they still hold weight but maybe not as much. Is there a trend to value (value meaning a sales increase, I guess) more commercial than literary (okay, well, let's not get into the artifice of commercial/literary labels) books? I don't really know the answer, but what do you think?
Awards are undoubtedly a mark of respect and prestige regardless of the book's audience, but is it strange for me to think that the readership for YA seems to care less about them than the readership for MG or adult? Or do I have this biased opinion because we as bloggers don't tend to mention awards all that often--we're much more drawn in by the "hype" than anything else?
I've seen the concept of reader loyalty discussed quite a bit in the YA book blogosphere. Something that I wonder about with regard to reader loyalty is whether there's a differential loyalty depending on genre for author vs. a book series.
First off, what is the step to committing to author loyalty? You love one series so much that you deem an author an auto-buy author. You love an author's online presence and decide to get whatever they make because duh, they're awesome. But what of when an author says something you don't agree with? What if their personal opinions are counter--or anathema--to your own?
But even more interesting to me -- what is that step between becoming loyal to an author versus loyal to a series? I've been thinking about this a bunch because I think that in fantasy, you can get a lot more people loyal to finishing out the series whereas in contemporary, they very much emphasize being loyal to an author. Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Forman, John Green-- they've all built their names to be their own brands, and that's without a series; their contemporary work can be very different, but their voice, their writing has become what draws in your loyalty. For fantasy, or most SFF series, it seems like people are committed to the series itself, more so than the author. Undoubtedly there will be people who are interested in following Marissa Meyer's new books, for example, but how many people are loyal to her and her new projects compared to those who were excited for the Lunar Chronicles? Is there a big difference? I don't know. I also found myself thinking about the massive popularity of authors like Sarah J. Maas and Maggie Stiefvater, authors who have earned reader loyalty more than usual, loyalty to the author maybe more so or on par with loyalty to the series they write (or the fandoms are great at making everyone else think that?). And I started to wonder whether in SFF, the bridging ground between author loyalty and book loyalty are the characters. Something about characters and being able to write about them in fanfics or fanart makes fans more loyal to the creator, doesn't it?
Do you think that part of the difference in author vs. book loyalty has to do with the genre and the characters? What makes you transition from being loyal to finishing a book series to being loyal to the author?
(This post covers cover reveals from January 27 - March 2nd)
Christina Makes the Bookish Rounds is a feature that will let you know about recent MG/YA/NA book related news. I'll post about articles from the publishing industry, cover reveals, discussions from the book community, the latest tv/movie news, and giveaways that you're hosting. If you would like to follow along with cover reveals during the week, see my Pinterest. (If you're interested in how I make these posts, here's your guide.)
Which of these books are you looking forward to? Will be posting the next bookish rounds soon, hopefully! (not today, but soon). Which of the covers are your favorites?
Wow, it's been a really long time since I did a recap post. In October, I wrote a book talk, but I didn't even mention my blog posts. The last time I did a recap, then, was in September! So much has happened here on the blog, I've read so many books and gone to some great book launches, and I've received and purchased quite a few books as well!
Ah, well. This post was supposed to go up two weeks ago, along with a video that I had recorded in the usual recap way. :/ But basically I'm still trying to catch up with the posts that were scheduled for my time off but didn't go up.
Hey, hey. Today I thought that I'd do the 15 Weird Questions Tag that I saw on Ameriie's channel. If you've ever wanted to know more about me, the blogger behind the blog, here's a little insider's chat.
1. A nickname that you get called.
Stinkle, Tinkle, Teenie, Tina, Xtina, Crystal, Kawthar, Hoots. Stinkle comes from a friend calling me Stinkleberry (I don't remember how we both got onto food nicknames), which she's then shortened to Stinkle. Tinkle is from that. Teenie, one of my friends said she just thought was cute and the other said that it fit me really well. Don't really know what that means but I like it anyway. Tina is what my family all calls me, plus my guy friends tended to do that too. Xtina is for all the people too lazy to write Christina but who don't like Tina. Crystal was what an Arabic professor called me, as if Crystal was an actual Arabic name lol. Kawthar was the name my actual Arabic professor called me. Hoots--my best friend was reading William S. Burroughs in high school and gave us Burroughs inspired nicknames.
2. A weird habit.
When you're alone, do you ever get the urge to dance? Not even really dance. It's almost like I'm performing for an audience but the audience is just me. And then when I realize what I just did -- like a slow gif montage -- I'm like wtf?
3. A weird phobia.
I feel like a lot of my phobias have been made mainstream (e.g. insects, sharks, crocodiles, the dark). As a kid, I used to run up the stairs, especially when it was dark, because I was afraid that an imaginary tiger was chasing me. In pools, I hated those bulging lights underwater because I was afraid they would metamorphize into sharks. Also that sharks would somehow come up out of those drains. My family loves to tell the story of when I was four-years-old, woke up crying, and kept saying that an alligator had bitten my finger off, waving my still very intact pinky in their faces.
4. A song you are ashamed to like so you blast it in private.
Here's a secret: I don't listen to a lot of music. I first started listening to music in eleventh grade, when I'd gotten fed up with not knowing what my friends were referring to. I went to a couple of concerts. Occasionally I look up music from tv shows and other pop culture, but do I actively pursue a lot of albums or artists? Nah. So I guess this means I'm not really ashamed to like anything because I'm not invested enough.
5. A pet peeve.
Just one??? And yet I can't remember any now. Hmmm. Smacking. When people don't hold the door open for others--and no, I don't mean "chivalry" from men. I mean everyone. It's just common courtesy. When multiple people are walking on the sidewalk and they don't move to make way for someone walking in the opposite direction. C'mon. You're really going to make me walk in the grass or snow because you can't be bothered to move for ONE moment? Common Courtesy, again.
6. A nervous habit.
I don't think this counts as a habit really, but when I get nervous, my hands get bone cold. It's like my body is saying, hey, send all the blood from the doofus's hands into her brain, she's going to need it. I guess I'm the typical nervous presenter where I say um a lot, fidget on my feet, etc.
7. What side of the bed do you sleep on?
I didn't realize this until now, but I have almost always slept on the left side. I don't think I'd care either way though.
8. The name of your first stuffed animal.
I don't know that this counts, but my brother had a white polar bear stuffed animal he called Marco Polo. And that's really the only stuffed animal I remember holding.
9. What do you buy at Starbucks?
Cafe mocha or the chilled, pre-packaged fraps. I'm all about the chocolate syrup to make coffee taste better.
10. Beauty rule.
Roll out of bed.
11. Which way do you face in the shower?
What does this mean? Is there a special way to face in the shower?
12. A weird body skill.
I don't know that I have any. I can roll my tongue. I think someone once got freaked out when she saw how I could push my thumb back. Something about double joints? I don't know. People get freaked out kind of easily.
13. Comfort food.
My mother's cooking mmmm. Garlic chicken sandwiches -- make garlic dip (garlic cloves, oil, some lemon juice), spread that dip all over a halved pita, add rotisserie chicken and diced tomatoes, fold the sandwich and place under a George Forman grill to make it somewhat panini like. Mmmm. Spicy chicken sandwiches from Stone Oven. Tabboule. Ice cream. Chocolate. Mmmm.
14. A word or phrase that you say all the time.
I used to say No Shit, Sherlock a lot because of my brother. Then it was coolio. Then rawr. I don't know what I say anymore.
15. What do you sleep in?
Giant T-shirt and basketball shorts.
If you want to do this tag as a sort of "let's get coffee, get to know me" post, go for it! Consider yourself tagged by me and come back and leave the post for me to read :). Do we share any weird habits? How would you answer these questions? Let me know!
Are you looking to tackle your TBR in 2016? So am I! And I really, really need to read a lot of books. By the end of July, I will probably be moving again. I will be starting graduate school in September, and having less than six months before all of that, I need to read the books that I've bought or obtained in the past two years-- at least to make the move easier on me when the time comes. Once I read these books, I can pass them onto friends, send them home, etc. The one thing I don't want to do is just let them sit there because I'm too much of a book hoarder or optimist to let them go, and then have to decide what to do at the last minute. So, I've turned to read-alongs. Read-alongs are awesome because a.) extended discussions of books b.) they keep you on track for tackling your TBR and c.) reader relationships! d.) duh, actually reading. Without further ado, let me know if you have any of these books and would like to read them with me at any of the dates I'll mention.
I’ve talked on and on before about how fantasy is my favorite genre. I’m more likely to be drawn into reading a fantasy novel than any other, and some fantasy novels have inspired me as a writer too. Yes, I like to write. I’m a writer and a reader and a blogger. For the five authors I fangirl over, some of the commonalities include: a.) character-oriented fantasy; b.) mostly third-person narratives; c.) plots that go beyond the ‘lost prince trying to reclaim throne’ type; d.) complicated characters, plots, everything. And of course, the fact that I feel like my mind is getting bigger while reading their books.
1. KRISTIN CASHORE:
I think that one of the most interesting things about Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms series is that they’re all so different in terms of plot, though they’re all high-concept works that go waaaaay beyond their simple description (“a young queen must help her country heal after the destructive reign of her psychotic father” could describe Bitterblue but doesn’t get at any of the novel’s complexities). Probably the simplest, most typical coming-of-age of her books is Graceling, but that was her debut novel, and I think that ever since then, she’s been working on adding more and more complexity into her works. For me, she was the first author I’d read in YA fantasy who was also very much writing character-oriented fantasy. After reading her work, I feel like I can’t go back. I can’t read much plot-based fantasy—they’ll never be my favorites compared to the ones that put character first. The ones where the questions and themes and symbols of the series are embedded into the characters—and yeah, plot-based fantasies can do this, but comparatively, it’s a lot harder to add in the same level of complexity into the characters compared to the actual events of the plot. Kristin Cashore is the YA fantasy author who also gets mentioned in almost every YA fantasy comparison (“Graceling meets XYZ”; “For fans of Kristin Cashore”), and that’s for good reason.
2. MEGAN WHALEN TURNER
I’ve basically already fangirled hard over The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. If you follow that link, you’ll get the full sphiel on why I loooooove that series and fangirl over MWT in full, but for now… If I learned how to write high-concept character-oriented high fantasy from Kristin Cashore, I would learn how to write a high fantasy centered on a character that’s like a living legend from Megan Whalen Turner. (If this sounds familiar, that’s because Sarah J. Maas, among many others, was inspired by the Queen’s Thief series). I also think that of all the authors here, MWT probably has the *most* layered into each scene of her books, particularly as you go further into the series. The most in the sense that no scene will ever be just what it is on the surface; you might have a scene where a guard is confronting his peer, but there’s a lot more meaning embedded into the narrative and particularly how that scene contributes to making the main character, Eugenides, even more of a living legend. Yet, for all that the series shows his change in fortune, it never once fails to humanize him. Many fantasies alternative PoVs within a book so that you can relate to different characters; the Queen’s Thief series shows that you don’t need to do that to give a character complexity, but the choice of PoV and what that perspective adds are definitely questions to ask. We don’t always get the main character’s point of view, and he’s not always the main character of the book in question, but there’s no doubt that each book is adding to his character arc and that is the major one tied to the series arc.
3. C.S. PACAT
C.S. Pacat is not a YA fantasy author as of this moment. The Captive Prince trilogy is very much meant for mature readers (but I listened to an interview with her and it sounds like she might be writing a YA fantasy right now—so maybe we’ll hear more from her in the future). I first learned about the Captive Prince trilogy from Emily May at the Book Geek; I was intrigued, but I wasn’t sure if I should add onto my TBR—especially given its heavy sexual violence. Then Sarah J. Maas recommended the books, and my feed was full of the books again. So I decided to read the beginning, and I got hooked by the promise of the characters. As this article on the Female Gaze explains, one of the crucial elements in her books is this shifting of the default to homonormative. In her world, people shudder so much at the idea of bastard children that most relationships are with the same sex. And it got me thinking about how most fantasy novels, and novels in general, fail “to realistically portray sexual dynamics that do not exist in response and relation to traditional heterosexual relationships.” (The article goes over much more than that). C.S. Pacat has written novels where the default has shifted and made me consider—well, hey, why don’t more novels do this? This is something to always keep in mind while world-building. Plus, she’s ALSO amazing at adding in many layers to each scene and creating complex, multi-layered characters; they have a certain vitality, to the point where despite not knowing what Laurent would plan next or what other comradery scenes would come next for the army, I can picture the characters.
4. MAGGIE STIEFVATER
Maggie is the most different of the authors on this list because I wouldn’t technically call her work high fantasy (though if The Scorpio Races is on a fictional island and the society is different from ours with its water horses, why can't it be called high fantasy? finally high fantasy that doesn't equate to medieval patriarchal times...). Regardless, if C.S. Pacat has taught me about the defaults in world-building and characterization, Kristin Cashore about high-concept character-oriented high fantasy, and Megan Whalen Turner about layered plotting centered around a living legend, Maggie taught me the importance of atmosphere, of mood and feeling within a scene, and how those can work to achieve characterization in conjunction with the other elements I've mentioned. Maggie has talked about how she likes to think about her writing as 'moving stuff around in a reader's brain',' which creates a specific effect for each scene (and also each image for her characters). And reading the Raven Cycle, I feel that magic is real. I feel like I'm with her characters, experiencing the wonder of the forest, the creepy delight of trees speaking in Latin. That's a rare gift to find in a lot of fantasies, which prize political intrigue over readers being in the moment with the character.
5. MARIE RUTKOSKI
Finally, Marie Rutkoksi is a mastermind when it comes to introducing symbols within each scene. In The Winner's Curse, Kestrel agrees to something her father says, and he pats her cheek with his dirty hand. That dirty handprint is a wonderful symbol -- for the characters and modern associations. We might think of a "devil's bargain" caked onto Kestrel's face. Her father working with dirt, with his weathered hands; Kestrel wandering around the house, so focused on finding Arin that she doesn't look to see if there's dirt on her face -- so much to be said about the characters. It's just such a strong image! It stayed with me for a long time. And feeling like you're trapped in, marked so strongly by something you agreed to -- I as a reader can really relate to that feeling. In The Winner's Crime, Kestrel is eating desert with a sugar spoon during her dinner with a certain character (maybe the first chapter?). A sugar spoon, specially made, speaks to the luxury of her dining companion and his staff, the amusement and terrible waste of making a spoon that you can only ever use *once*. It also brings to mind the modern phrase of 'eating out of a silver spoon' -- except that this token of privilege is made of sugar. Still, it characterizes Kestrel well, and sets a dark foreboding tone for the rest of novel, given its place at the beginning. The spoon tastes sweet at the beginning but then by the end of the meal, it has dissolved into nothing (which, btw, matches really well with what Kestrel says at the end, no?). And note: those were only 2 images! One for each book! There are so, so many more in The Winner's trilogy.
All of these authors do amazing things with their novels. If you're a writer, especially a fantasy writer, I'd suggest reading their works for yourself to see how they've manipulated these different elements. If you're a reader who doesn't like to write, well, I'd still suggest reading these authors's works because they're brilliant. Are any of these authors among your favorites? Who do you fangirl over, and whose work makes for good lesson material for writers?
Release Date: March 22nd, 2016
Source: ARC via publisher
Published by: Dial
Wink Poppy Midnight - April Genevieve Tucholke | Goodreads
Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.
What really happened?
Someone is lying.
Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke is unlike anything I've read in YA, yet I'm not surprised that Tucholke is its author. What I remember most from Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is Tucholke's atmospheric writing and her ability to create dynamic characters who were shaped by their environment and multi-faceted, both of which are preserved in Wink Poppy Midnight. The three main characters, Wink, Poppy, and Midnight respectively, have voices that are unique, easily distinguishable (even without the headers), and charismatic. Wink Poppy Midnight is the kind of book that once you start, you won't want to stop: the voices demand to be noticed, the writing is snappy and the plot fast-paced, a small book that is altogether easy to read quickly so that you can discover the truth once and for all. If there's a YA queen of creating unreliable yet (mostly) sympathetic narrators, it's April Genevieve Tucholke.
I'm struggling to write this review mostly because I think that you ought to read Wink Poppy Midnight with as little information as possible. Let the voices guide you. That's one of its similarities to We Were Liars: both emphasize knowing little, because for Wink Poppy Midnight, wondering about the identities of the liar, the villain, and the hero drives the plot, characterization, and reader intrigue. Knowing too much might simply ruin part of your reading experience. Wink Poppy Midnight is a twisty, fast-paced mystery, slick with atmospheric writing and unique characters who capture your attention and are much more than they appear. (Side note: I'm in awe of the cover designer. Wink Poppy Midnight has a beautiful cover that represents its contents quite well, including the many symbols, without actually revealing any crucial plot details. Hard to achieve and well done).
In terms of its audience, I would recommend Wink Poppy Midnight to fans of We Were Liars and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. While Wink Poppy Midnight is unlike anything I've read in YA, I think that it shares some of that suspenseful "what-is-going-on," "what's-the-truth" element driving both Mara Dyer and WWL. We Were Liars is driven a little more by tragedy and grief than Wink Poppy Midnight, but like We Were Liars, Wink Poppy Midnight explores that psychological edge between fairy tale and reality; to what extent do all the stories you read and hear shape your perception of the world around you? Do fairy tales actually reflect the truth of our realities, or do the way in which we tell our tales reflect the truth of our own identities? And do our self-identities match with how others perceive us? Meanwhile, in relation to Mara Dyer, I think that Wink Poppy Midnight similarly asks: are these characters insane? Is there something supernatural happening? Is what's happening really happening, or is everything a matter of perspective? How much of what happens feeds into the atmosphere of the novel, and are these actual events?
Having read both Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and Wink Poppy Midnight, I am in awe of April Genevieve Tucholke's versatility as a writer. You might call them both psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators, but they're written in such different ways that I'm hard-pressed to actually compare the two and instead only see Tucholke's growth and talent. I am reminded yet again that April Genevieve Tucholke has so much potential as a writer and that I can't wait to see what she will come up with next.
(If you're interested in Wink Poppy Midnight, I'd suggest reading the excerpt that was released with the cover. I read and loved the excerpt, and I think that it was a good predictor of my reading experience.)
Some other people are participating in a themed promotion and giveaway for Wink Poppy Midnight, and I thought that I'd at least answer part of the theme in my review.
In Wink Poppy Midnight, there are three different narrators who are not all they appear to be. Midnight, the quiet, sensitive hero, is drawn to both Wink, the mysterious and wild girl next door, and Poppy, the sharp manipulative villain of the story. Or so they seem. Who is the real hero? Who is the villain? Someone is lying.
If I were to choose my favorite hero(ine), that would probably be Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. My favorite heroes are the ones who are so staunch in their determination that they make serious mistakes (but of course later grow from those mistakes). If we're being gender specific, my favorite hero would be Eugenides from The Queen's Thief series. Each book in that series builds on his character arc, even though he's not always the protagonist or the main PoV, and he becomes an even richer character for those perspective decisions. I refuse to say more, because I want y'all to experience him for yourselves. Also Harry Potter. As for favorite villain, I could go several ways. Grendel's an adorable monster. Laney from Black Iris has an interesting agenda. The Darkling from the Grisha trilogy also blurs the line between the potential to be better and the absolute fall from grace. The Regent from the Captive Prince trilogy is ridiculously manipulative. And the person who I'm not sure about... BELLAMY. What has he been doing lately?!?!
Who are your favorite heroes, villains, and people you're not sure about? Are you going to read Wink Poppy Midnight, or have you already?
YA Magical Realism is still a fledging genre, I think. Compared to the YA fantasy and contemporary books that are published each year, it’s a much smaller part of the pie. But as I’ve said before, I’d love to see more YA magical realism. I basically love magical realism because I think in YA, in particular, these kinds of stories take really unexpected turns and can push the boundaries of what YA does. Some people think that magical realism stories are slow-paced and they can be, but for good reason. I’m not an expert, but the magical realism definition according to Wikipedia involves work that “share… an acceptance of magic in the rational world…. Magical realism… refers to literature in particular that portrays magical or unreal elements as a natural part in an otherwise realistic or mundane environment.” According to The Atlantic, when they wrote an obituary for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, they mentioned how his works were “quintessential examples of ‘magic realism’: fiction that integrates elements of fantasy into otherwise realistic settings.” (More magical realism definitions, re: YA magical realism & urban fantasy vs. magical realism).
This is where things get a little hazy for me – because Urban Fantasy often includes magic + contemporary settings, but the feeling of urban fantasy is much different from that of magical realism, though I think both could end up in an urban setting if you wanted. I think that UF is much more likely to include creatures of legends; both can have that dreamy feeling, too, but then I think magical realism focuses more on the individual, the main character and the MC’s unique experience. You can have character-driven urban fantasy, of course, but the actual experiences of the character PoV in magical realism tales are more deeply explored, I think. Hey, for all I know I could be talking out of my ass, but if you’re looking for more YA magical realism books to read, here are some of the ones that I’ve enjoyed reading!
** Chime by Franny Billingsley.
Chime is the story of a girl whose life turns upside down once a new boy comes to her witch-intolerant village swamp, because his presence helps to reveal long-lost secrets. It’s cyclical and beautifully written, and the swamp – here’s another magical realism quality! The setting is almost ALWAYS its own character! Which should happen in most books anyways, but can be critical to magical realism – the swamp is its own character. You get fantastic new magical creatures in the swamp, and Briony’s coming-of-age and sexual awakening are twined together so beautifully in her quest for the truth. Highly recommended! The writing style might throw some people off, but stick with the book and you’ll be so rewarded!
** We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.
We Were Liars is the story of a girl who no longer remembers the tragedy that happened at her family's summer home but seeks to discover the truth behind all the lies.. The details of her fifteenth summer at her family's private island elude her, and her family is reluctant to talk about what exactly happened. Her quest for the truth is interspersed with fairy tale like stories about her family and her memories of their summers at their island retreat. It’s a beautifully written suspense story on grief, privilege, family, duty, friendships, and much, much more.
I can't believe I've been blogging for five years. It's really something. I guess blogging just becomes a part of you, even though it's a hobby, and then time passes and wow.
Well, anyway. One part of blogging that I really enjoy is the community. The community is so foundational to everything that you do. And one thing that the community does really well is keep books alive. So, today, to celebrate blogging for five years, here's the requirement for this giveaway.
Tell me about your favorite #QuietYA. Were it not for bloggers, I wouldn't have discovered some of my favorite books, and some of these quiet YA books especially fall into the cracks. So tell me about your favorite #QuietYA. They don't have to be in any specific time period. If you liked a book from the 1990s, go ahead and recommend it! If you thought that a 2015 book fell into the cracks, go ahead and recommend it! Just tell me why you love it. Help me build up my recommendation and TBR list. We all know bloggers are excellent at that.
ON THE ORIGINAL POST (aka linked above), I have a rafflecopter form, so you’ll be able to enter the giveaway there!