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Tag Archives: YA

Something Different in YA

It’s been a crazy few weeks around here. School started this week, so first there were all the pre-school fuss with teacher visits, meet the teacher night, and making sure we had everything MB needed. Then there was the first day. Then there was parent orientation. And figuring out how the logistical stuff was going to work now that MB is closer to home, but farther from both of our workplaces. So that’s what’s been going on and why I haven’t been able to think much about blogging lately. I do have a few ideas, though, so stay tuned.

I’m still reading as much as ever, though, so today it’s about a book I read recently that is a little different from anything I’d read before, and it’s a YA book, too. It’s Liar by Justine Larbalestier.

Micah Wilkins is a liar. Since the story is told in first person, she is the most unreliable narrator you could wish for, despite her initial promise to tell us the truth. One thing does seem to be true is that her boyfriend, Zach, is dead, and no one is sure what exactly happened to him. Micah and his other friends, including his “real” girlfriend, are being questioned by the police, and Micah may be a suspect because of her illicit relationship with him.

The book is divided into three parts, “Telling the Truth,” “Telling the True Truth,” and “The Actual Real Truth.” Each begins with Micah’s confession of lies in the past and a resolution to now tell the real truth, complete with a confession that throws a whole new light on the story told in the previous part.

The story is intriguing. Personally, I just went with whatever Micah was saying at the time, expecting to be able to figure it all out in retrospect. When it was over, I still wasn’t sure exactly what the truth was, although I certainly understood more than I had before. And I had realized that Micah was so deep into her lies that she probably didn’t fully understand the truth, either.

Sorry if that’s a really cryptic description, but the book itself is as well. Despite (or more likely, because of) its weirdness, I really enjoyed this book. It kept me in suspense until the very end. Actually, beyond that. If you look at the reviews, it’s clear that people aren’t quite sure what to think of it. If you’re OK with having to stay on your toes and not having complete a complete resolution at the end (ie., if you are a fan of Lost), you will probably enjoy this book in the same way. If that kind of thing drives you crazy, stay away.

What’s on My Kindle – WWII Edition

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Well I didn’t plan it this way, but for some reason I’m reading a lot of World War II books on my Kindle right now.

I recently finished Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s actually a relatively short book. It was on my list because it’s often associated with Lost. With good reason, because it’s about a man who becomes “unstuck” in time. The effects aren’t the same as they were for Desmond, though.

Then, for some reason, I decided to start The Book Thief. Now this book is pretty popular and gets a lot of rave reviews, with good reason. But it’s also about a girl living in Germany during WWII and opens with the death of her brother, so it’s kind of a downer, too.

I then saw something online about a Kindle Single called Double-Edged Sword. It’s available in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for Amazon Prime Members, so I decided to go ahead and borrow it for July. I further decided to preempt The Book Thief in favor of this one since it’s pretty short (clocking in at around 70 pages). It’s also much more light-hearted, about a Spanish double agent. So far it’s a pretty good read, so I’ll let you know how I like it overall after I’m done.

So that’s what’s on my Kindle right now. I’m going to make it a point to ensure that my next read is completely unrelated to World War II, though. How about you? What’s on your e-reader or nightstand?

The Kingkiller Chronicle

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This is another one that I’ve been meaning to write a post about for a while. I was first introduced to these books a couple of years ago. A Kindle message board I’m a member of has a monthly game where they pair people up to assign each other to read a book that may be a little outside their respective comfort zones. I decided to participate over the summer, and I was given The Name of the Wind as my assignment.

The book is a fantasy, a genre I certainly don’t have anything against, since there are a few on my all-time favorites list. Still, it’s a tricky genre for me. I feel like it’s a fine line to walk between having a fully-formed, believable world and too much unnecessary detail. I don’t typically seek out a fantasy book unless I’ve gotten a specific recommendation.

In this case I did have a recommendation, so I toodled off to Amazon to purchase the Kindle version. I started reading, and found it a bit hard to get into at first. It feels like we get dropped into the middle of some sort of political and/or metaphysical conflict that the characters understand somewhat but the reader does not. The characters are all sort of bland and stereotypical small village-type people. (That is, people living in a small village, not a short rock group.) A man named Chronicler is robbed on the road and then rescued from spider-shaped demons by Kote, the local innkeeper. After the ordeal is over, Chronicler recognizes Kote as Kvothe, an almost mythological figure in that land. Chronicler gets Kote to agree to tell his story so he can record it. Kote says it will take three days, and The Name of the Wind is the first day of the story.

This is where things started to get interesting. Once Kote/Kvothe took over the narrative, the book sprang to life for me, kind of like Dorothy stepping into a Technicolor Oz. The characters he talked about were real, flawed, beautiful people. I don’t want to spoil any of the story for you, but Kvothe goes through more situations in his early life than you would have thought possible. From traveling with his family of performers to learning what we would call magic (although they treat it very scientifically) at University, the thread that runs through the story is his desire to learn more about the Chandrian, some sort of evil beings, or spirits, that most people in his world believe to be fairy tales, especially at the University. When bad things happened to Kvothe, my own gut twisted with the unfairness of it all. When things worked out for him, I was elated. It was hard to put the book down.

The end of the book comes at the end of the day. Kote the innkeeper wraps up a few threads of the story, but we know that there is plenty more to come in the next two days. Somehow this all must connect to what is going on in the “present.” A late-night visit and request that Chronicler receives from Kote’s student (or at least that seems to be their relationship) only adds to the mystery.

Thankfully I didn’t have long to wait for the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, which came out later that year. I was anxious to spend more time with Kvothe, and I devoured this one, too. I have to admit that I didn’t find the second installment quite as compelling as the first. It seemed to drag a bit in the middle. (Frankly, part of the draginess was that Kvothe discovered sex.) The story did advance quite a bit, although we still haven’t learned why Kvothe was called “kingkiller” (despite his stint in the royal court during which no kings died, killed by Kvothe or otherwise) or much new information about what is going on in the “present,” except my growing conviction that it must have something to do with the Chandrian.

Now I’m stuck with all the rest of author Patrick Rothfuss’s fans waiting for book three, though, which isn’t even available for pre-order yet. (According to Goodreads.com it’s projected release date is May 1, 2013.) Sigh. At least that gives me plenty of time to re-read the first two books, the first of which weighs in at a hearty 676 pages, the second at just over 1000!

Bottom line, these books are excellent overall. Except for the knowledge that sex is being had, they are pretty tame and probably appropriate for the YA crowd. You should check them out. I’d love to know what you think about them!

The Big Deal is Back!

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The Big Deal sale on Amazon Kindle books is back. But hurry because it ends tomorrow! (Sorry!) You want to know my picks this time? Here ya go – I aim to please!

I also picked up a few other cheap books today, all $2.99 Christian non-fiction recommended by Julie Clawson:

I’m not sure whether these are part of the Big Deal sale or not, so I’m not sure what the prices on these will do after tomorrow. (Heck, I don’t know what the prices will do on the others, either. Sometimes it’s more of a “highlight good, cheap books” thing rather than a temporary sale.)

More Teen Dystopia

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For some reason dystopia is a genre that captures my imagination. I’m not quite sure exactly what it is that I love about it. It may be the same thing that makes me love shows like Lost and Fringe – something about a world that is recognizable as ours but at the same time is completely wrong and twisted. Even in high school, one of my favorite reads was 1984. My pre-Hunger Games dystopia love is for another post, though. Today it’s about a newer dystopian world that probably owes some of its popularity to the success of Hunger Games trilogy, but is still an amazing story in its own right.

Today’s dystopia du jour is Divergent. I actually first heard of this one from reading a sampler of coming teen dystopia put out by HarperCollins. (If you’re looking for some good dystopia, you should get it. It’s free for Kindle.) Most of the previews sounded interesting, and there are some more that I still want to pick up, but this was the one that really captured my attention.

The book is told in first person by Beatrice, a member of the Abnegation faction by birth. In this world, the city of Chicago is divided into factions, each of which values a particular virtue above all others. Abnegation values selflessness; Amity, kindness; Candor, honesty; Dauntless, courage; and Erudite, intelligence. Then there are the factionless, who live jobless and friendless without a faction, a fate that seems worse than death to most. Every year, all the 16-year-olds in the city must choose which faction they will join permanently. Before the choosing ceremony, they are each given a test to determine where their aptitude lies. Beatrice’s test is inconclusive, suggesting that she has equal aptitude for Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. This means that she is “divergent,” something her tester warns her not to reveal to anyone else. Beatrice makes her choice (and I’m not going to tell you what it is), but she discovers that being divergent is more dangerous than she ever dreamed, particularly in her chosen faction.

The tension in Beatrice’s life and in the city explodes at the end of Divergent and continues in Insurgent, the second book of the planned trilogy. The third book is scheduled for a Fall 2013 release, and no title has been announced. My first thought (and that of many others, apparently) was that the final book would be titled Convergent, but I’ve also seen Emergent suggested, which would fit well with the story arc. The author’s code name for the book, however, is Detergent (see the last question in the article), so I guess we’ll all have to wait a while to find out for sure.

I don’t want you to think that these books end on too much of a cliffhanger, although the story does pick up immediately in the next book. It’s more like the big reveal is made at the end of the book, so you know what the story was building towards, but the aftermath of the reveal is part of the next book. It definitely feels like the author is telling one continuous story in the series, but she does wrap up the sub-story being told in each book. I actually wanted a short break after finishing the first one to process everything that had happened and speculate about what was to come.

So I definitely recommend these books. I actually purchased them to read on my recent trip, but I made the mistake of starting Divergent before we left and just couldn’t stop myself from finishing before we left! Luckily Insurgent had just come out, so I had that one to get me through! These books are definitely keepers and will go in my “rereadable” pile.

The Hunger Games

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I know, I know. This post has been a long time coming. I first read The Hunger Games Trilogy in 2010, for heaven’s sake! I re-read them last year, and I expect that I will continue to come back to these books. They are that good.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard of The Hunger Games. With the premiere of the movie quickly approaching, Hunger Games mania is at a fever pitch. Even as little TV (well, commercials anyway) as I watch, I’ve been seeing more and more trailers for the movie. I’m checking in every few days on getglue.com to unlock stickers bearing images of the characters. (Remind me to tell you more about Get Glue sometime soon.) I watched the premiere of Taylor Swift’s Safe & Sound music video on MTV and snagged the MP3 for free from Google Play. Have I mentioned that I’m really getting into this?

So if you don’t know what it’s about, The Hunger Games is the first book of a trilogy that goes by the same name. It takes place in a future, dystopian North American country called Panem. Apparently a long time ago, the districts of Panem revolted against the Capitol. They lost, and now the Capitol keeps them in line in part by forcing each district to send two tributes, a boy and a girl, each year to play in the Hunger Games. The winning tribute receives status and privileges. The losers die in the game arena. Our heroine is Katniss Everdeen. She ends up as the female tribute for her district, number 12. The first book tells the story of how she became the District 12 tribute, her training, the Games, and the aftermath.

Like many first entries in a series, The Hunger Games could have been a standalone novel. However, it was a smashing success, and author Suzanne Collins went on to complete Katniss’s story with two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. It’s hard to talk much about the next two books without spoiling the first, so I’m not going to say much about the plot. Unlike the first book, the second one does end on a pretty big cliffhanger, so you will probably want to dive straight into the third. Luckily, I didn’t start reading these until all the books had been published, and I pretty much read straight through them all as quickly as possible.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I highly recommend these books. They were published as YA (young adult), but most adults seem to enjoy them immensely as well. I certainly did. I’m also anxious to see the movie, and I’ll let you know how I feel about it once I have.

Twilight

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So, yes, I admit it, I read the Twilight saga. The whole series. I was going to say the whole series except for Midnight Sun, but I started reading it when I went to get the link, and I ended up reading the whole thing on the computer over two days. (If you didn’t know, Midnight Sun is the story told through Edward’s eyes. Stephenie Meyer was working on it when it when someone leaked it to the Internet. She freaked out and stopped working on it, but she did release what she had to the fans on her website.) Yes, I am a woman over 30 who is procrastinating by reading an unfinished manuscript about sparkly vampires.

So, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, the Twilight saga is about a girl named Bella, her vampire boyfriend Edward, and, the third point of the mandatory love triangle, Jacob. It’s typical YA in a lot of ways – lots of angsty teen drama and everyone has flawless skin. But it’s extremely popular among teens, and, if you like YA and understand what you’re getting into, it’s not a bad read overall.

I thought the first one (Twilight) was pretty good. I know some people don’t like the whole emo vampire concept, but I don’t mind it; I kind of liked the direction she took the vampire mythology. It’s fantasy, people.

On the other hand, I didn’t like the second book, New Moon, as much. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so suffice it to say, both Bella and Edward behaved like twits for most of the book.

I thought the third book, Eclipse, was better, maybe the best of the series.

And now we come to Breaking Dawn. It started off pretty good. Then there was a long section in the middle where Jacob took over the narrative. (The rest of the published series is told in first person from Bella’s point of view.) Now this perspective shift was kind of necessary – Bella was incapacitated at the time. But I thought it went on way too long, and I liked Jacob much less by the time it was over. Then we came to the true conflict of the book. It was not great, but okay. Until the end. They pulled out this total deus ex machina, and then wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, it was all over.

I guess I should comment on Midnight Sun, too. At first it was fascinating to see the story from Edward’s perspective. But if you thought Bella was just too, too perfect in the published books, this one will make you physically ill. He never tires of rhapsodizing about how beautiful she is, how loving, how selfless, etc. It’s just too much.

Bottom line: It’s worth the read if you have a kid who’s reading it (or wants to) so you can talk to them about it. If not, there are lots of other YA books out there that are better.