Archive | April, 2011

Figment: Blogs to Stalk

26 Apr


Love YA Lit is featured this week at Figment as a “blog to stalk”. We are especially honored to be included in this feature as some of our favorite blogs have been highlighted previously – Reading in Color, Presenting Lenore, GreenBeanTeenQueen, and more. Check out this week’s post on Love YA Lit and feel free to take their suggestion to start stalking us, but only in a friendly, non-creepy way (thanks!).

Huntress

24 Apr


In a world troubled by crop failure and the emergence of violent creatures, a party is formed and sent on a dangerous, largely unmapped journey to Taninli, the city of the Fairy Queen. Among the party are two seventeen year olds girls – Taisin a gifted sage and Kaede a young woman rebelling against her father and seeking her own place in the world. Through their journey to Taninli and beyond, they encounter mysterious creatures, contemplate their future paths, deal with loss and sacrifice, and fall in love.

Huntress is as beautifully written as it’s predecessor, Ash, but has one big thing going for it that makes me love this prequel* even more: I LOVE a good fantasy/adventure story. Huntress fit the bill in both familiar and unexpected ways. The story brought to mind other classic fantasy novels – A Wizard of Earthsea, The Hobbit, and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – but without ever feeling unoriginal or stale. The characters making the treacherous journey are all well-developed (even those who don’t make it so far) and the creatures and other beings met along the way are diverse and help add to the momentum and excitement of the journey.

We know from the opening words that there will be love and heartbreak ahead: “She saw a beach made of ice, and she felt her heart breaking.” Taisin has a vision before the start of their journey, a vision of Kaede rowing away from her, towards her death, and accompanying the vision is a feeling of love. This is emotionally confusing to Taisin because she barely knows Kaede and she has not envisioned a future that involves romantic love (a sage must remain celibate). The opening scene is so vivid and filled with emotion that it captured me in a way that a book hasn’t done so in a long while. Taisin’s vision also adds an element of suspense to the journey.

There are multiple love stories at play in Huntress, but the romance is subtle and natural to the extent that I would not classify this book as primarily romantic fiction, even though the romance is important to the overall plot. Lo’s choice to use an omniscient third-person narrator, allows her supporting characters to become more fully-realized. With this, the love story of Prince Con and Shae is able to become a sweet little side story. Their love story is more reminiscent of a classic fairy tale romance than Kaede and Taisin’s, but here is not the centerpiece. This choice, along with the closing conversation between two characters, brought to mind questions about whose stories are generally told and whose are almost always relegated to the wings. I’m sure that Lo could do justice to the love story of Prince Con and Shae, as she did with limited focus in Huntress, but I’m glad that she chose to focus her storytelling and writing talents on another love story this time around.

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Malinda Lo
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2011)

*you do not need to read Ash to enjoy Huntress, but it’s definitely worth a read as well!

The Time-Traveling Fashionista

19 Apr


The Time-Traveling Fashionista is a sweet tale of Louise, a vintage-clothes-loving twelve-year-old. Louise feels like no one understands her obsession until she receives an invitation to an exclusive vintage sale. At the sale she finds the perfect pink dress, and has to try it on. Once Louise puts on the dress, she is magically transported back in time onto a gilded age cruise. Louise deals with romance, the role of women, and issues of class in an innocent, but spunky manner. Mostly she has to learn how to be Alice, a famous and aloof actress, and the owner of the pink dress. However, once Louise realizes exactly which boat she is on, the adventure and suspense begins.

Overall this book is not your typical rich-girl clothing/shopping fantasy. So yes, it actually has some values attached, and it makes a good case that being into vintage fashion is about creativity and having an artistic eye, not lots of money. This book is really more of a middle-school/early high-school level book, so it may be a bit too innocent and straight-forward for adult readers of young adult. However, if you are looking for a fun fairy-tale with pretty illustrations and some fashion history thrown in, this would be a good choice.

Nora’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Author: Bianca Turetsky
Publisher: Poppy (April 2011)
Received from publisher for honest review

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

9 Apr


When I’m experiencing a reading slump, a good audiobook can help me snap out of it and get me back to my nose-in-book habit especially fast (books with short chapters also do the trick). So I’m especially grateful whenever I come across outstanding audio recordings of YA titles on my TBR list. Will Grayson, Will Grayson had been on my must read list since I first heard about it, but for some reason, I never managed to get the book into my hands. There are books that I have regretfully listened to – wishing that I had picked paper(book) as my medium rather than audio(book) – but Will Grayson, Will Grayson showed up on enough best audiobooks lists and was named an Honor Audiobook by the Odyssey Committee of the ALA, that I figured it was a solid choice for a book worth listening to.

And it was. The audio recording is outstanding, as is the story(telling). The book is told in alternating chapters from the perspective of two young men, both named Will Grayson, who after a chance encounter, have one other big thing in common – the openly gay, larger than life Tiny Cooper. In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Tiny Cooper helps the Will Graysons to come out – one out of his need to fade into the background and one out of the closet. While John Green and David Levithan give voice to the Will Graysons, with Tiny seemingly as a supporting character, Tiny really does steal the show (as per usual) and gets the chance to tell his story through the high school production of Tiny’s autobiographical musical, Tiny Dancer.

The readers, MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl (who alternate chapters along with the Will Graysons and authors), are outstanding in their roles as both the Will Graysons, Tiny Cooper, and the other supporting characters. Perhaps best of all, the audiobook brings the music of Tiny’s musical to life! I’m curious if the authors had input into these compositions, and if not, what they think of them! The only thing that didn’t really translate well to audiobook were the Internet chats – hearing the screennames read allowed sounded really repetitive – this is the one part of the audio recording that I think would have worked better in paper(book) format. There were moments when the chats were interesting or important enough that the repetition didn’t even register, so it’s not like it ruined the experience for me or anything.

Extra points (not that it’s a competition) to John Green and David Levithan for writing interesting, believable parents. Much appreciated.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: John Green & David Levithan
Readers: MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2010); Dutton Juvenile (2010)

Be sure to check out Nora’s review too.

Release!

5 Apr

Well, my plans of spending my few hours of freedom this morning reading and blogging about today’s great releases fell through. I’ll blame work (times two), but really I only have myself to blame. And in good news, I was super productive at work today, so pat-on-back is in effect. But since it will be at least another few days before I can celebrate the release of these new titles with reviews, I figured I would give a shout-out to them today. It is their day after all.

So happy book release to Malinda Lo and her latest release, Huntress! YAY! I have been staying up way past my sanity-allowing bedtime reading this lovely hero’s journey of a tale. There have been several moments in the past few days when I had to put this one down because I could not keep my eyes open any longer and kept dropping the book and losing my page. I’m thinking Huntress will be some fierce competition in my top reads of 2011 (and not just because the protags are so kick ass and the cover looks ready for a good fight). I’m loving this read and can’t wait for my library’s copy to arrive so I can explore the map on the end pages (missing from my ARC). And I’m hoping to make it to one of the NYC Diversity in YA stops, so that I can buy my very own signed copy and gaze lovingly at it (I’m assuming the authors are signing/selling on tour?).

Anyway, also happy release day to The Girl Who Was On Fire from Smart Pop Books featuring essays by a gazillion (ok, 13) YA authors on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy. With all the HG movie talk lately, I’ve been craving some Hunger Games and this book is a great way to dive back in without re-reading the whole series (someday this will happen, but for now, there are way too many books on my TBR list that need my attention). The essay that I’m most anticipating reading is Blythe Woolston’s Bent, Shattered, and Mended, which focuses in on PTSD and the inevitable trauma of the Hunger Games (the games not the books). I loved Woolston’s Freak Observer and she uses footnotes in her HG essay, so chances are good that this essay will stand out for me (in case you didn’t know, footnotes = fun). I’m hoping to get Nora to read some of these essays too so that we can blog together about it. You know you want to Nora….