Blog Tour + Giveaway: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

January 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm (Blog Tour, Giveaway) (, , , , )

You know what this week is?

It’s Incarnate‘s birthday!!!

That’s right, this lovely book is coming all fresh and shiny into the world, and this is one stop on the release week celebration. (Don’t know the book I’m talking about? That’s okay, you can celebrate anyway, and you can also check out my review.) There are something like fifty blogs participating in this event, with all KINDS of things to do. There are games and activities, treasure hunts, Guess the Blogger, even a knitted Incarnate puppet theatre!

Some of the individual blogs (including this one!) are hosting individual giveaways, but there are also Tour Prizes.
Two runners up will win: signed hardcover of Incarnate, knitted fingerless mitts, and assorted swag.
One Grand Prize winner will win: a signed, annotated hardcover of Incarnate, knitted fingerless mitts, a Jodi-made mask, assorted swag, and a character named after them in book three (who may or may not end up dead).

Frickin’ sweet, right?

So, on to details: of the 45 blogs participating in the release week fun, 19 of us are activity bloggers. If you do the activity on each blog and fill out the included form (absolutely required), you’re entered for more points in the grand prize giveaway. Then, there’s also the Clue Hunt. You can do as many or as few of the activities as you’d like. Just keep in mind: on the blogs that have separate giveaways, you still have to fill out the form to get the extra points for the grand prize giveaway.

(For more information on the Incarnate Theatre Treasure Hunt, check out Jodi’s post)

Want a hint about the Theatre?

Intrigued?

And on to the activity!

In Incarnate, there’s a masquerade where the entire city of Heart comes together in costumes. It’s a celebration of love that transcends lifetimes and surpasses the physical form, a test of sorts to see if two souls can still find each other even in costumes that remain secret. It’s an amazing scene, one that filters through the entire story in small ways. Plus, I’ve always been in love with masquerades. It’s not just that most people don’t know who you are, or even about the thrill that comes when someone does recognize you in spite of everything. It’s the symbolism of the choice, the way those designs become reality in pieces of cloth and accessories. I think what a person chooses, and how they choose to do it, actually says a lot about them. (yes, I overanalyze things; it’s one of the reasons I love doing book reviews)

So here’s the schtick: I have a question for you, and if you answer it in the comments, you’re entered for my giveaway. Winner (chosen by random.org) will win an ARC of the book, plus a handmade Incarnate themed jewelry set. BUT, to be entered for extra points in the grand prize tour giveaway, you HAVE to fill out the form below. Have to. Non-negotiable. If you comment but don’t fill out the form, you’ll still be entered for my giveaway, but it won’t contribute to the overall contest.

And now for the question!

If you were to go to masquerade like the one in Incarnate, what would you be/look like? You can describe it, draw it, link to it, just be creative!

(as an example: I’d be a dragon. Slightly different from the dragons in Incarnate; think a bit like the covers of Sophie Jordan’s Firelight series. Fairly simple, flowing gown that swirls with movement and breezes, deep deep green, and strapless, because the collar bones and shoulders and all the way down the arms would be dusted with a subtle, shimmering green powder in the shape of scales. Subtle- I’m not particularly ostentatious, but it’s really the details that do it. I’d dye my hair for the occasion to match but it would be back from my face and tumbling down my back, with small crystals pinned in to catch the light. The scales would continue up my throat and onto the face, where it would disappear under a green scaled mask with asymmetrical curves. Simple, green wire and clear crystal jewelry, nothing to detract from the scale patterns. I love the strength and elegance and mystery surrounding a lot of the stories about dragons; some stories have them as simply creatures (like Incarnate, and in some they’re wise beasts. I love that dichotomy)

So what would you wear/be to a masquerade? Don’t forget, comment below AND fill out the form! Both giveaways end at 11:59 pm EST on 6 February, so you have a whole week!

And check out some of the other activities!
Creative Reads
Mato’s Blog
Mission To Read
Every blog has a couple of links on it, so you don’t need to go in any particular order. Good luck, and have fun!

Until next time~
Cheers~

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Dads and Types + Giveaway!

January 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm (General, Giveaway) (, , , , , , , )

Last week we talked about Moms and Types in YA and MG books; now it’s Daddy’s turn. I will give a warning with this one, though: there are some spoilers. Some of these fathers are far too tied into the story to be able to talk about without giving away some crucial parts of the books. I’ll add a little warning for the ones that seem spoiler, both before and after, so you can avoid ones you don’t want to learn yet. (and don’t forget, down at the bottom there are instructions for how to win an ARC of Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne!)

On with the show!

Daddy Calls the Shots
Also known as Daddy-as-Puppeteer. This is the type of father who so thoroughly controls his children’s lives that the kids have no say in things, may not even realize there’s any other way to live (or may rebel like crazy). Everything is planned out, everything has to go through the father, and there is no greater crime than in suggesting to this man that his children might be rational creatures capable of making their own decisions. I know there are other examples of this, but the one that towers over everything in my mind is Vaughn, from Lauren DeStefano’s Wither. This thoroughly creepy man controls everything in his house, pulls all the strings, and Linden has been raised to be so grateful for this care that he doesn’t even realize it. Vaughn is a man who feels no compunctions about doing horrible things, who fully espouses the motto “The ends justify the means”. Linden has never been taught how to be the man that could stand up to this, so Vaughn continues his reign unabated. Linden might as well be a marionette. Less successfully than Vaughn, there are dads like Mr. Sage, in Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines. Bastard much? His daughters are useful as extensions of his will, not reasonable creatures in their own right, but unlike Linden, Sydney is able to stand up to her father in small ways. Her opinions aren’t useful to him, her desires, her plans, as long as she’s an obedient daughter who will make him look good and serve his ambitions.

Not Now, Dear, The King is Busy
Not always an actual king, this is anyone in a position of authority who is persistently too occupied with affairs of state (city, business, etc) to be an active part of their children’s lives. They’re there, more or less, but there’s a distinct wall and a very strained sense of connection. Sometimes it’s unintentional- he really wants to be there but there’s just so much to do, so much dependent on him. And sometimes there are mitigating circumstances. Mayor Beckett, from Brodi Ashton’s Everneath falls into the first part of that. He wants to be there for Nikki but he isn’t entirely sure how, and being mayor and running for re-election doesn’t give him much time to figure out how to help. The Warden, from Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, is less accidental; this is a man with secrets, and part of is is trying to protect his daughter from those secrets, but most of his life is wrapped up with the prison, not with Claudia. Then there are the fathers who are using duty as an excuse. After his wife’s death, the king in Heather Dixon’s Entwined uses duty as an escape, a way to run from his grief. To his daughters’ detriment? Yes, but grief can make us selfish and the duties are real. Then there’s the king in Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns.He doesn’t have much time for his ungainly younger daughter and never has, but she’s useful as a political arrangement. He loves his daughter, something we see in small, quickly departed moments, but being king is far more his life than being a father.

I Have a Child…Somehow…
These are fathers who are somewhat baffled by the existence of their children. They know- theoretically- how this came about but they really have no clue what to do with these inexplicable children. It’s not that love isn’t there, it’s just that it’s layered into all the things they don’t understand. Like Mr. D’Angelo from Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Every Other Day. In some respects her shares some traits with the fathers listed above, that concept of always being too busy, but his distance evolves more from a basic incompatibility with his daughter. They might as well be speaking different languages on the rare occasions they interact. Lisa Mantchev’s Scrimshander holds a place on this list as well, too wild and wind-souled to understand the strange creature in front of him. Probably my favorite example, though, is Poseidon, from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. The gods (sometimes) recognize their children, but they always seem somewhat perplexed by them, too. So they may or may not point them in the direction of the camp, may or may not grant them something special to help them out on quests, but then they just kind of…leave them there.

I Don’t Understand You, But I Love You Anyway
We talk about the generation gap sometimes, that people of different age sets are basically incapable of understand each other. We simply expect that our parents don’t really understand us. Sometimes, that’s even true. For example. Gen’s father in Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series. He and his son? Very little common ground. Gen is his mother’s son through and through. But we never doubt that Gen and his father share a strong bond that survives frustrastions and different interests. It’s there in the wry conversations, the apparently grudging respect, and the true concern that marks their interactions. Then there’s King Georg in Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball. He loves his daughters, truly and deeply, but their geis puts a wall between them that he can’t penetrate. He doesn’t understand their silence, their exhaustion, doesn’t understand why they won’t trust him, but he loves them just the same and will continue to support them in the struggle he can’t begin to comprehend. Then there’s Alan’s father in Jaclyn Dolamore’s Between the Sea and Sky. He and his son stare at each other from across a wide gap of misunderstandings and secrets, but when it comes right down to it, he supports his son. Maybe it isn’t easy, maybe it’s even painful with the memories that surface, but the foundation is there and the actions reinforce it.

Fallen Idol
This is a painful type for the children involved, the worshipped father of their childhood rendered merely human in the grand scheme of things. It’s not necessarily that the father is bad- frequently he isn’t- but that he’s not the paragon of perfection that the children thought they were. First on the list? James Potter, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. James initially stands on par with Lily in the martyred perfection, but through the course of the series James gradually breaks down from that ideal to become a real person with flaws and troublesome attributes. It’s painful for Harry to realize his dad was a bit of a prat, especially as it also casts his uncle figures in a not-so-positive light. In Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, we come into the story after the idol has already fallen; Hadley’s father fell in love with another woman, tore apart their family, and- as far as Hadley can see- just expects her to be on board with all this. Hadley can’t balance his selfishness against her mother’s pain. What we actually get to see through the second half of the book is the slow patchwork process of possibly mending the relationship. It’ll never be what it was- the idol is a product of innocence- but it’s lovely to see what happens after the fall. SPOILER FOR LIA HABEL’S DEARLY, DEPARTED: IF YOU DON’T WANT A SPOILER, SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEXT SECTIONIn Dearly, Departed Nora has mourned her father for a year. She remembers standing beside his casket at the funeral, vividly remembers having to move in with her spendthrift, social-climbing, bitter aunt, and all the emotional pain that comes from his death. Then she finds out he’s still alive (sort of) and continuing to work. Bit of a pedestal smasher, that. Then she finds out even more, finds out about his work, about the consequences it had on their family long before his death. Is he a bad man because of it? Not particularly. Is he a bad father because of it? Still not particularly. But he’s not the father Nora remembers, and they’ll have to forge onto unknown, unsteady ground to find a new relationship in light of those revelations.

/spoiler

Daddy’s Trying to Kill Me
Also known as bad. These men are never going to (honestly) hold a World’s Best Dad mug or shirt. These are the dads that put their children into years and years of intense psychotherapy. Or the hospital. Or, in a few unfortunate situations, the morgue. For some of these dads, there may even be a twisted sense of love or duty, a genuine affection that simply doesn’t stand up to the fact that their children are in the way of what they want to do. First dad that sprang to mind? Valentine, from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. “Father” in this case stretches somewhat, given the circumstances, but there’s no denying that he loves Jace, in his dark and twisty and generally soulless kind of way. He actually does care about him. It won’t stop him from killing the boy, of course, because really there’s that whole destroy the Downworld thing he’s got going on, but he does love him. SPOILERS FOR ANDERA CREMER’S NIGHTSHADE SERIES, ESPECIALLY BLOODROSE: TO SKIP SPOILERS, SCROLL DOWN TO NEXT SECTIONRenier Laroche has a few Daddy-issues on both sides of the spectrum, both the better side of that gets explored a little further down. Emile Laroche is a world-class bastard, a savage and a brute who terrorizes anyone weaker than he is. In the final book in the trilogy, it becomes much more direct when Emile and Ren actually face off. It’s a series a choices and hard experiences that brought Ren to the point of being able to do that, to stand against his father to protect others, but eighteen years of father-son ties isn’t going to keep Emile from trying to win that fight, even when it comes to death.

/spoiler

More Than Average Flaws
Dads screw up. That’s a fact of life. Dads screw up, moms screw up, kids screw up, everybody screws up sometimes. Some dads just screw up to a greater degree than others. Faye’s father, in fact several of the fathers, in Sara Wilson Etienne’s Harbinger simply turn their back on their children. They give up, they let tham get carted off (or ever drop them off unawares) to the sadistic Holbrook Academy to let them be savaged by so-called caretakers. By so-doing, they actively contribute to the harm being done to their children. SPOILERS FOR JOHN GREEN’S THE FAULT IN OUR STARS AND VERONICA ROTH’S DIVERGENT: IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE THE SPOILERS, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEXT SECTION In The Fault in Our Stars, there are several times when we’re led to ponder the identity of a parent who has lost his or her only child. Are they still a parent? Can they still say they’re so and so’s parent? The answer varies by parent, really, but we do get to see a parent who has entirely crumbled in the wake of his child’s death. All identity has been lost, the very core of what he was has been stripped away, and only a vaccuum continues to suck in all the mean-spiritedness a body can hold, a poison he shares liberally. His child is dead, but he’s the husk that died in a living body. Then there’s Marcus, from Divergent, a man who presents one face to the world and another entirely to his son. It isn’t just the emotional abuse, there’s also physical abuse, the kind that batters the soul long after the visible scars have healed. A second example of those specific traits can be found in the memory of Peregrine’s father, from Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky

/spoiler

Mischief Makers Together
This is a fun group, one tied rather closely to the next group. These are the fathers that are- often but not always- friends as much as fathers to their children. Their positive influences may be debatable but the lessons they teach are important nonetheless. This kind of relationship exists where there’s a lot of common ground, where the basic personalities of those involved are similar. For example, George from Tamora Pierce’s Trickster pair. He’s supportive, mischievous, frankly devious, all things he’s taught Aly, but there’s a line between father and friend and he isn’t afraid to both draw it and stand by it. The skills they share between them used to be a game to learn, a fun father-daughter exercise, and that shows in the true enjoyment Aly has for utlizing those skills. Very similar in nature and result, though somewhat less firm on the line of distinction, is Bobby Bishop, from Ally Carter’s Heist Society series. A thief from a family of thieves, he continued the tradition with his daughter. While other fathers and daughters still at the kitchen table and talk report cards and extracurriculars, Bobby and Kat scope out a museum and talk manuevers. It’s not the most orthodox of relationships but it is a real one, built off of love and affection and concern for the other’s well-being, something we see clearly in their interactions in Paris.

Legacy Bound
The Mischief Makers are the lighter side of this same coin; where Aly and Kat continue their fathers’ businesses out of a sense of enjoyment and passion and skill (and in Kat’s case, a fair amount of family expectation/bullying), there are others tied to their father’s legacies by a bit more. For Cas, from Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood, he’s out for revenge, pursuing his father’s work for a chance to get at the ghost who killed his father. He’s good at his father’s work, no doubt, but he’s in for his father’s memory. Sean Kendrick, from Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races also follows this pattern. Not for vengeance, but to continue the work, to honor the memory.

The World and My Life
This is the type of father who will do anything for their children, even when it’s hard and the child doesn’t always understand the purpose of it. These are the fathers who sacrifice, who care more for the fate and well-being of their children than anything else. Like Arthur Weasley, from Rowling’s Harry Potter series. This is a man with seven children who has scrimped and saved and cut corners to give them the things they need, who exhausts himself trying to win a better world for them. This is a man who loves them beyond reason, even when they’re turned their backs on him, and will always be waiting to welcome them home again. Another example is Monroe, from Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade series. He will do everything he can to keep his daughter safe, as well as reclaim the child that was lost and try to ease the brutality that child has grown up in.

As before, there are definitely other examples that fit these types, as well as other types. So share one with me below! Tell me how a father from YA or MG fiction fits into one of these types, or give me an example of a type I didn’t mention. That enters you for a chance to win an ARC of Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne. Want another entry? Head back to the types of moms (shortlink at head of post) and comment there to answer the same question about mothers, and you’ll be entered twice. Giveaway will run through Saturday, 4 February!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Harbinger, by Sara Wilson Etienne

January 25, 2012 at 11:17 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Wracked with visions, Faye gets shipped off to Holbrook Academy when her parents can’t deal with the crazy anymore. Holbrook isn’t your typical school, though; student brutality is a fact of life and the goal isn’t to heal the students so much as break them and make them conform. Fortunately for Faye, her assigned Family actually has a way of looking out for each other, of supporting each other even when they all have to take the pain for it. Then they wake up filthy and exhausted, their hands covered in red like blood, and Faye’s floor has a strange design painted on it. Between navigating the atrocities of their so-called caretakers and the mistrust inherent in meeting new people, they’ll have to get to the bottom of the mystery. Except…Faye’s pretty sure handsome, full-of-secrets Kel knows more about it than the rest of them. She’s also pretty sure he’s trying to kill them, and maybe the entire world.*

I have to admit, even before I got to read a description, this was one book where the title and cover totally drew me in. I have a completely geeky love affair with the word ‘harbinger’ and have for a long time, and the cover? Just look at it! My first thought was that it’s like a tarot card (which turns out to be a pretty valid assumption), but it blends all the elements together so well that while you’re very sure the book is going to have a great deal of mystery and intrigue and danger to it, you’re not quite sure what that setting is going to be. It could be anything- fiction, historical, sci-fi, fantasy…with the bright-glowing sea and the rocky shore and the blood moon low and heavy in the sky, this cover leaves you open for anything.

Which is a good thing, because this book has a strong element of WTFery all the way through. And it WORKS. This is one of the very few books I’ve ever read where the uttery confusion of what’s going and the fact that characters are completely clueless actually works in its favor. From the first scene in Dr. Mordoch’s office, we know that separating the line between reality and appearance is going to be very difficult, maybe even impossible, but we’re placed into such a lush, vivid description of the visions that we’re pretty much okay with that. The characters are in such a welter of confusion and we sink into that chaos with them. Enough comes together at the end to give us belated comprehension, which makes for a fantastic reread when you know what to look for already.

I love Faye. Even just her narration- she’s honest and vivid, an artist that never has to tell us she’s an artist. It’s there in the way she describes things, in the words she uses to relate a thing, even just in the way she looks at things for the individual pieces of their overall shape. I love her pain and bewilderment, her betrayal, and in light of that I especially love how- until memory and purpose intrudes- she still tries to protect other people. I love the sense of loss that comes when the thing she’s feared, hated, the things that made her different, are stripped away. Maybe they were terrifying but they were also hers, part of her, and I love the ache that comes with that. She’s a good middle ground between rebellious and passive, which lets us appreciate the more extremem qualities in others.

I really enjoyed the layers and layers of complications in Kel and Faye’s relationship. Even from the first moment there’s a lot that goes into it. Complicated? Yes. Angsty? Not really. Emotions and tensions are high, they’re both used to being betrayed by others and abandoned by the people supposed to care about them, but there’s something very real about all of it, something grounded in everything they experience even over so short a time. It’s a strong bond, even when pulled taut between them with distrust, but there are reasons for that, and I love it. (I’m not going to tell you what the reasons are, though- spoilers)

The degree of brutality at the school strains credulity a little bit. Granted, these kids are mostly unwanted or given up on by their families, so their parents aren’t going to raise a fuss, but it’s hard to believe that there could be that kind of savagery (especially against minors) without repercussions. Though, granted, given the overall setting I suppose there’s not exactly much in the way of governmental oversight. The atmosphere and danger the school itself represents is important, but it’s also a little off-putting that there is genuinely nothing to act as a limit.

I would have liked to know more about the others. It’s Faye’s story, that’s true, and the relationship focus is on her and Kel, but the others of their Family unit are really quite interesting and we only get to see them in flashes. They’re separate and distinct, with individual personalities, but they’re relegated to role of crowd most of the time. They’re strong enough to band together, to stand together against outside interference even at the price of being tasered, starved, humiliated, etc, but we’re only left with echoes of the connections, rather than seeing the connections forged.

Dr. Mordoch, the head of Holbrook Academy and a not-quite-remembered figure from Faye’s past, is a monster, but she’s a monster who is at times almost sympathetic. I love that we get to see those flashes in an otherwise multi-layered repugnant personality. She truly is repulsive and what she does to the students in the claim of helping them is egregious, but I loved seeing how her guilt compounds with severe flaws to render her nearly insane. We stop just short of actually feeling sorry for her but the impulse is there- the idea that we would feel sorry for her if she were a better person.

Honestly, I think the only thing I didn’t particularly enjoy about this book was how heavy-handed the environmental message was. Is the setting believable? Aside from the brutality of the school, yes. An oil crisis has caused a severe shortage of fuel, resources are being pillaged, and communities are drawing together into cooperatives to shield against the outside world and protect what resources they have. It makes sense and it’s certainly a worthy cause and a concern, but I rather felt like I was being bludgeoned with it. Rather than being part of the book, it becomes the book.

Harbinger is a book you sink into, like floating on the ocean and gradually sinking below the waves. It envelops you completely, draws you in to barely contained chaos and a pain that stretches across time. It is, in short, gorgeous. AND- it comes out first week of February, so you don’t even have to wait for it (long).

Want to win an ARC of Harbinger? Just answer a question here and you’ll be entered to win, PLUS there’ll be another chance to enter on Sunday. Answer both questions, be entered twice.

Until next time~
Cheers~

* As a disclaimer, I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

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Moms and Types + Giveaway!

January 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm (General, Giveaway) (, , , , )

From time to time, my friends and I go back to visit a topic near and dear to our curiosity: Disney movies and the family structure. Even just looking at the animated summer blockbusters, there’s something a little strange there when you actually look at the families. For example:
Belle, from Beauty and the Beast? Dead mom.
Beast, from Beauty and the Beast? Both parents dead.
Snow White? Dead mom.
Quasimodo, from Hunchback of Notre Dame? Dead mom. We assume dead dad as well, but he could have just been imprisoned.
Aladdin? Both parents dead.
Jasmine? Dead mom.
Simba, from Lion King? Dad dies. Rather horribly.
Ariel, from Little Mermaid? Dead mom.
Hercules? At the least the really screwed up Disney version anyway? Two sets of parents.
Nemo, from Finding Nemo? Dead mom.
Tiana, from The Princess and the Frog? Dead dad.
Tarzan? Both parents dead.
Cinderella? Both parents dead.
Even frickin’ Bambi’s mother dies.

Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and Mulan seem to stand out as significant exceptions when you list them with their friends, because they actually have happy, whole family units. Where our debates usually centered was whether or not Disney had this trend on purpose, to either reach out to the broken family homes and say it’s okay you still get your happy ending someday, or if Disney studios just really had a thing against intact families, like it’s some kind of personal affront to their broken, battered, bitter hearts.

But Disney being the springboard for many improbably conversations, it got me to thinking about families in fiction. For this week, specifically the mothers.

In Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction, adult family members have a sometimes precarious position. The story isn’t about them, usually, so sometimes it’s like the parents don’t even exist. We’re aware the characters have them, we even see them peripherally from time to time, but they just don’t have much an impact. Then, other times, they’re a HUGE impact. While each mother should always be distinct from others, as every character is hopefully distinct, they do tend to fall into types.

The Departed Saint
Lily Potter. Throughout all seven books of the Harry Potter series, we’re given only the best things to hear of Lily. Even Petunia, who hates her sister, still talks about how wonderful Lily was, how pretty, how clever, etc. You never hear a bad word about her. Then, the information that overreaches everything else: she laid down her life to save her son, and her love temporarily killed the Dark Lord. Let’s face it, that kind of action doesn’t create a mother; it creates a martyred saint. There’s no flaw, no detracting deficiency, so we (and Harry) are led to see her as part of a marble pantheon of saints. Do we ever doubt her goodness? No. Do we ever doubt her love for Harry? No. But do we ever get to see her as a real person? Not really. We come a little bit closer with Slughorn’s reminiscence, with Snape’s memories, but Lily Potter is like the Dead Mommy of all Dead Mommies.

The All-Mother
This is the one who takes in strays, adopts adopts adopts, mothers everyone more or less impartially regardless of age, gender, race, or creed, the one who exists as a sort of monument to the institution of motherhood. In other words? Molly Weasley. She’s plump and a little disheveled, goes without to make sure her kids have what they need for school, and exists to mother other people. It’s not just about pampering and gushing, though, because she also lays down the hard discipline. No matter what else is going on, she can be counted on to predictable and steady, a rock who will probably make a cup of tea as soon as she can get half a hand free during the crisis.

The All-Consumed Mother
This is the type of mother for whom the entire world revolves around her son. There is absolutely nothing she wouldn’t do for her son, no matter what it was, and depending on the rest of her personality the rest of the world may or may not be invited to piss off. Narcissa Malfoy is one example of this; she’s vain and arrogant, prejudiced, perhaps bigoted, thinks herself far superior to others in terms of purity of blood, wealth, social status, and beauty, but perhaps the strongest single trait of Narcissa Malfoy is that she’s Draco’s mother. Politics? Allegiances? Screw them. She’ll forsake anything if it means keeping her son safe. You know the saying that there’s nothing more dangerous than standing between a lioness and her cub? (though if you watch enough nature documentaries you know that’s not precisely true anyway) Well, forget that: standing between Narcissa and her son is far, far worse. But there’s a less Oedipal, gentler side to the all-consumed coin. For example, the mother from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. (Forgive me for not knowing her name; I borrowed a copy and already gave it back so I can’t check it) Her entire world revolves around caring for her daughter. That is her life. BUT, she also had flashes of a life outside of it. We see glimpses of the past, but also of the future. For the present, she will do everything she can to make her daughter comfortable, to keep her as healthy as possible for as long as possible, but unlike Narcissa she knows when to let go. Her world revolves around her daughter, but she also has other stationary points to keep her focused, like a husband and something good she can do.

The What Kid? Mother
Perhaps it’s partially that teens are angsty with Mommy and Daddy Issues anyway, or it’s a reflection of the tiems, but this is one that we see a fair amount. The mother who’s so wrapped up in whatever that the fact that she has a kid or kids is an afterthought at best. The other side to that is the mother who’s so consumed with something else- work, a purpose- that the kid doesn’t always (maybe ever) get to come first. Jeanine Hathaway from Vampire Academy fills that second part. She’s a Guardian and Guardians protect, so she has only intermittent contact with her daughter, and when they do meet, neither really knows how they stand. It’s not that she doesn’t love her daughter- because she does- but that she doesn’t really know how to treat her like a daughter. Then there’s the mother from Kody Keplinger’s The DUFF, driven by a need and an emptiness that keeps her running away. She loves her children but doesn’t have it in her to be there for them. Or how about Rena Malik, from Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes? Now this is a woman who will never be nominated for Mother of the Year award, but I’ll leave it to you to learn the reason why (spoilers). Final example for now, the Queen from Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl. Cold and driven, ruthlessly pragmatic, she feels no compunction in shoving her daughter and heir to a distant marriage so she can get rid of a disappointment and name a new heir more in line with what she expects. We never particularly hear of Isi going back to Kildenree for a visit- is it any wonder why?

The Zen Mother
This is the type of mother who is ready for anything, who can be shocked only momentarily, who is supportive and loving and can usually surprise the hell out of you. Like Sally Jackson, of the Percy Jackson books. Sally has this awe-inspiring and somewhat frightening ability to wade through trouble. Smelly Gabe? It’s keeping her son safe. Minotaur? Well, she’s rescued later, so at least she got her son to camp. No matter what hurdles come her way, she clears them and adapts to the aftermath, never blaming her son, never discouraging him, and instead supporting both him and his friends. The mother from Veronica Roth’s Divergent also fits this mold. She has this beautifully (and bafflingly) serene reaction to the world, but she does what she can for her daughter and ultimately pays a high price to try to keep Tris safe. In this case, still waters run very deep. Same with the mother from Ally Condie’s Matched. Would she agree with everything Cassia’s doing? No. But she would understand the reason for it, and even without knowing the reasons she support her daughter.

The “Oh My God My Mother is Ruining My Life” Mother
Prime example of this is Jacinda’s mother, from Firelight. Is she doing what she thinks is best? Yes. Is she being extremely selfish and more than a little cruel? Yes. Is she favoring one daughter at the expense of the other? Yes, though she probably doesn’t think so. Her shortcomings, her needs, her fears, mean that she puts Jacinda through hell simply so she and Tamra can feel like they belong somewhere. It still springs from love, but a lot of terrible things do. Mabis, from Lena Coakley’s Witchlanders does a great deal to burden her son. It isn’t just that she’s pretty much insane, but the insistence and force of her fractured beliefs batter at him, place him in a position outside of both belief and disbelief, and that place can be very, very lonely. All his life she’s taught him one thing, now she’s shattering him by insisting he believe another, even though she’s railed against that course for years. Rather than caring for her children, she’s put them in a position where they either have to care for her or walk away; either way, she’s forced them to grow up far too quickly.

The “When Did My Mother Become a Real Person?” Mother
We have a tendency to think of our parents as just…you know…our parents. Their lives began when they had us, right? Eventually we learn that no, they had a full life before us and most will have a full life after we leave the nest, and some even maintain it while we’re there. It’s always a shock, that moment of realizing your parents are real people too. Especially if they’re *gulp* kind of cool. Cammie Morgan, from Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, has to come up against this more than once. Her mother is her mother, and also her headmistress, but she’s also *gasp* someone men might find desirable! And while she knows her mother was a spy, there’s something different about knowing that and actually seeing it in action. Clary Fray, from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, also comes up against the enigma of a mother with a past. In this case, it’s a mother with a hell of a whopper for a secret, but as she’s learning these pieces and trying to fit them together, she doesn’t even have the benefit of having her mother there to help. It can’t do anything but change their relationship, and they both have to come to grips with how the other is changing/has changed before they can really mend things.

This is only a sampling of types- there are so many patterns that people fit into, and some mothers that fit more than one category. Plus, there a ton of mothers in YA and MG that I haven’t gone anywhere near. BUT- if you help me fill in some holes, you could win a book that demonstrates some of the more screwed-up parent/child relationships I’ve seen recently. Comment below with either a Type and example, or an example that fits into one of the above Types, and you’ll be entered to win an ARC of Harbinger, by Sara Wilson Etienne. The giveaway is going to stretch across next week’s post about fathers, too, and you can comment on both to be entered twice. Giveaway will be up through Saturday, 4 February. Just comment below!

Until next time~
Cheers~

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Book Review: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

January 19, 2012 at 9:40 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Cinder has grown up knowing she doesn’t belong- after all, cyborgs are second class citizens, even if clothing can mask most of the changes made to her as a child. In the markets of New Beijing, she does her best to simply be a good mechanic and keep her head down, preferably avoiding her step-mother’s wrath. But then- a prince. And a secret. And a plague. And a lunar queen with cruelty and the power of bio-electrical manipulation. Buckle up, boys and girls; there’s no fairy godmother on this wild ride.

Anyone who’s been with the blog a while knows I have a thing for fairy tales. Like a Really Big THING. I adore fairy tales, and I absolutely love clever retellings of them, versions that keep faith to the original (or as original as we can find, anyway) stories but still manage to make them completely their own.

Friends, we have here a very worthy addition to the tanks of retellings I love.

The typical elements are all there- the handsome prince, the step-mother and pair of step-sisters, the slaving for the step-family, the ball, even the pumpkin coach and the glass slipper in their own way. All the things that tie this firmly to the story of Cinderella are here- but they’re set into a fantastic futuristic world with a lot more going on than who gets to dance with the prince at the ball. The story is woven through a much bigger picture, while never losing a firm grip on the retelling. What’s more, it stays true to Cinderella while still adding in threads from other stories, such as the Snow Queen and Anastasia (yes, I know Anastasia isn’t technically a fairy tale, but the way we treat it, it might as well be, really).

When it comes to foreshadowing, it’s about as subtle as a brick to the face, but let’s be honest: no one reads a fairy tale retelling to find out what happens, but rather how. When it comes to Cinderella, no one is going to be shocked that she gets to the ball and dances with the handsome prince. It’s how she gets there- her version of the pumpkin coach- that’s awesome. As readers familiar with this foundation and the others, we know what’s going to happen long before Cinder and the others do. It’s not that we’re particularly surprised at any point. Instead, we get to be impressed.

The setting of this story is fantastic. It takes place after World War IV has completely changed the structure of nations, and New Beijing is the capital of the Empire of the Commonwealth. It’s a brilliant meld of traditions- like rice paint and kimonos, the tiered pagodas, the surname first- and new tech, like tracking chips and highly advanced tablets and androids. And, of course, cyborgs.

The cyborgs were both a great point and a sticking point for me. I love that the main character is one in a world where being a cyborg means being a second class citizen. I love that she struggles with it, with trying to keep herself in order and appear totally human. What I do wish is that we’d come across other cyborgs. Cinder is the only one we meet, so it’s hard to feel sympathetic for the large number being treated as test subjects and throwaways or forced labor, hard to sympathize for the experimental draft, when we never see the effect these things have on other cyborgs. There is no cyborg community, no sense of greater belonging. Part of that makes sense, given the other threads through the story, but it also left a bit of a disconnect.

This is a busy story. There are a lot of separate threads coming together and at some points it actually feels a little too busy, as threads are either rushed to completion or never fully developed.

I love Linh Cinder as a character. She’s pragmatic and a little cynical, but not bitter yet. She works hard, is good at what she does, and looks for a way to get out or to at least make things a little better. She’s aware of the slights but also of the kindnesses, even if she doesn’t always recognize the impulse behind them. Her pragmatism, her way of looking for solutions, is wonderful and fits in very neatly with her trade as a mechanic. Does building and fixing things require a certain amount of imagination? Absolutely. But it also requires logic and determination and level-headedness to actually get things done, and we see that through most of the story. Her personality is a good blend of her various parts and the way she interacts with other.

I love how patently oblivious she is to Kai’s intentions through a large part of the book. Not that she doesn’t realize what he’s doing, just that she doesn’t realize he’s serious, or at least sincere, doesn’t recognize that for him, she is one blinding piece of normalcy in a world gone mad. She, of course, is too pragmatic to fall head over circuits in infatuation with him just because he’s a prince. We get to delight in the sense of fun in his pursuit- he’s determined but polite, never pushing too far but never letting it go either, and every now and then we get a glimpse of the sincerity beneath the fun. Kai is a young man in a very difficult position, one he’s not entirely prepared for, and Cinder’s pragmatism balances his occasionally high-strung, knee-jerk reactions. He’s thinks fast and acts fast, not always to the most beneficial result, but his instincts are good and his intentions for the best.

Doctor Erland is an interesting character. Hard to say you like him, really, given his particular brand of ruthlessness or even coldenss at times, and yet he’s got this deep well of sincerity and even sympathy that still makes him very appealing. You still care about what happens to him, even outside of his obvious significance to the story, but at the end of things, even when you care, it’s still hard to say you like him. I LOVE THAT. I love the ambiguous characters that reflect all the grey areas of the human existence and the fact that a person can be flawed (maybe even mildly sociopathic) and still draw on reader’s sympathies, and I thought he was very, very well done.

And Iko- what a gem! Iko is an amazing, silly, heart-warming, hopeful character. I love Iko and very much look forward to seeing where her story continues.

The plague is a constant, real force that shapes the story, perhaps even more so than the threat of war with the lunar queen. Mixing magic (sorry, bio-electrical manipulation) in with everything sometimes came across as flat, and the queen was perhaps too mercurial, and too purposefully two-dimensional, to come across as a true danger. We know she’s a danger but she never really feels like one, never gives us half the frisson of fear that the plague does. We see the fear that stalks through the city, the instant panic at the signs of it, the debilitating effect it can have on families, and the complete lack of hope that becomes a despair that somehow drives a continued search for the cure. They don’t hope but they still search, perhaps out of a bleak, grim incapability of simply letting it go.

Absolute favorite part of the book? Cinder showing up at the ball. Not going to say why, because really getting there is half the fun, but her actual appearance walking into the ball made my day.

And the good news? There’ll be more! Cinder’s story isn’t done yet, as this is just book one of the Lunar Chronicles. Book Two, Scarlet, will be forthcoming (date unknown).

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Trailers

January 15, 2012 at 8:12 pm (General) (, , , , , )

I’m of two minds about book trailers- sometimes they’re done really really well, and sometimes they come across as something out of a high school av lab. For me, trailers don’t really do anything for me. Well-done trailers of books I already love make me smile, make me fall in love even a little more, but even a well-done trailer for a book I’m not in love with makes me appreciate the talent that goes into the trailer, not the book.

BUT, that being said, a well-done trailer is a great way to make someone curious about a book. I tend to only check out trailers for books I already have an interest in, but I talk to quite a few people in the store who find about a book from a trailer.

And there are a few book trailers I absolutely adore. Let me share them with you. *grins*

This was recently finished for Lisa Mantchev’s So Silver Bright; the hardcover came out in September, with the paperback out in May. Guys, I love this book. Love it, love it, love, the culmination to a beautiful trilogy that makes all the geek parts of me very happy. It’s a beautiful trailer, one that fills all the potential of the series and the empty space of pages.

(Lisa Mantchev is having a trailer contest on her blog; check it out, there’s some fun stuff there!)

I adored Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver; it was such a gorgeous, lingering book, and the trailer does that every bit of justice. What’s really awesome about this is how it takes the actual illustrations from the book and pairs them with an original song. Yes, you read that right: original. And it’s beautiful. Really fits the impressions of the book.

Third one here is Forever by Maggie Stiefvater. I haven’t actually read this book yet- I’m waiting for it to come out in paperback so I can read all three at once- but I LOVE this trailer. This is one of the few trailers that would actually pull me in to investigate a book I know nothing about. The fact that I do know this book, and have been looking forward to it greatly, just makes it even more amazing.

Normally I’m not a huge fan of trailers with a lot of words on the screen- I guess I figure the words are for the page and the trailer is for the audio/visual enticement, but I was surprised to find I really liked the trailer for Ally Carter’s Only the Good Spy Young. It gave an action-movie feel to it, like a teenage spy thriller on the big screen, which is perfect for the book and for the series.

Last one is for a book that came out several years ago, Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron. I love how simple it is, how it pretty much plays off of the cover and uses that to lure the viewer in to the rest of the story. It’s elegant and mysterious and doesn’t give too much away.

Any trailers you particularly love? Or hate? Share below!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith

January 11, 2012 at 11:05 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , , )

24 hours.
1 missed plane.
5 time zones.
2 people.
And maybe? Just maybe? The kind of love that can change everything about your life- or at least the way you look at it.
For Hadley and Oliver, the next 24 hours could be everything or nothing, the worst day of their lives…or, just maybe, the beginning of the best thing that could ever happen.

Every now and then I stumble across a book that’s really hard to talk about, but I really want to talk about it.
I love it, but I hate it.
I want to read it again and again, but I’ll know I’ll be wrecked if I do.
It’s the kind of book that changes everything, because it doesn’t actually change a thing.

For me, this book is The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith.

I’m not sure what made me first pick up the book, actually. I’m not normally a contemporary reader; I’m not normally a pure shot romance reader; I’m not generally huge on reading about divorce and consequences. It’s a striking cover and the book jacket doesn’t make any promises- it doesn’t guarantee love at first sight, just offers to show you what a chance of it might look like.

I don’t know that I can name any other book that gave me quite the reading experience this one did; I was pulled into it completely, but I also never settled into the writing itself. It’s lyrical and sincere, the words honest without being fluttery, but I couldn’t settle into it for a very simple reason: it’s third person, present tense.

And that weirds me out.

I’m not really sure what it is, but it’s actually hard for me to read it. The rest of the world doesn’t go away because I can’t get past the third person present tense. It’s narration heavy and floats seamlessly between the present actions and past reflections, it weirds me out. It’s not that there’s anything technically wrong with it, just that my brain cannot wrap itself around it.

But I LOVED this book.

This entire book takes place over the course of a single day, just twenty-four hours and two characters seeking an escape from an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, partly literal and partly just a suffocating awareness of what waits beyond the airport bubble. Because of that, the story is compressed and taut, without any extras. There isn’t space or time for sidelines because there’s a very real deadline. What results is a clean story rich with what actually matters. This is a book that resonates, deep and strong.

Hadley is lost and angry, swept away by changes she didn’t get to have a say in. In the wake of her parents’ divorce, she isn’t really sure which way is up anymore. Her father left the family f Occasionally, the airport that offers private aircraft charter flight options in-state to help with travel that is seasonal and tourism. or a woman he met in England and has a totally new life, one he wants her to be a part of. After a few weeks of despair, her mother has come into a calm acceptance as infuriating and baffling as Hadley’s anger. Between the two of them, she’s somehow agreed to be a bridesmaid for a wedding she wants nothing to do with, driving herself crazy to make a flight after a million delays. Missing the flight by four minutes is a keen relief- and the beginning of a nightmare and anger and deep-seated guilt. She knows she didn’t miss the flight on purpose- knows as well that it’ll likely be seen that way, as she didn’t leave herself any wiggle room in the travel arrangements- so she’s well on her way to the worst day of her life, worse even than the days of trying to keep her mother together, worse than the days of trying not to talk to her father on their ski trip because the one thing she can’t ask him is the only thing she needs to know.

Oliver is, at first sight, a saving grace, a cute British boy who makes the delay and the flight seem a little less terrible. Everything about these two is built on a tower of “if”s. If she didn’t miss the first flight; if the straps of the dress had been the right length; if she hadn’t dropped the toll coins; if the windshield wiper had worked; if, if, if, if, if. A hundred thousand different things could have happened that may have gotten her to the airport and the plane on time. He’s funny and playful and utterly sincere,a genuine comfort even in silliness and a good balance to Hadley’s need to overthink everything that’s happening.

What’s truly lovely about their relationship is all of the small things it’s built off of. In the space of a few hours, they forge a connection they expect to be fleeting but promises to be anything but. In the peculiar way of strangers in airports, they’re able to skip all the nonsense and talk about real things. They can talk about love and marriage and the likelihood of lasting relationships and somehow it simultaneously means less and more.

As beautiful and sincere as their relationship is, as much as I love all the fragile potential it has, what really invested me in this book is Hadley’s situation. Her anger, her sense of loss and hopelessness and guilt and relief, resonated deeply in me, largely because I remember being there. I was one of those rare children who was fully okay with my parents’ divorce; even at seven, I knew this was a good thing for everyone involved. It wasn’t until I got older that it got more complicated.

It wasn’t the fact that our family had broken apart that was difficult; what was difficult, even hellacious in some respects, was what came later, when new families were forming. It wasn’t even that remarriage meant that my parents would never get back together- that wasn’t what I wanted- but that I didn’t really know what to expect from this strange new world. I knew how to be a daughter but a step-daughter? A step-sister? When I was only there for a weekend here or there, how did I fit into that new life?

It’s a welter of emotion, all of them battering against you as you try to find your way in a world that keeps changing. Relief- this is something you can step away from. Guilt- this is something you want to step away from. Fury- why did this happen? How can someone just walk away from their promises and family? Hopelessness- because what if this is what love is? Loss- there were good memories there too. As kids, we try to help and protect our parents, when really we don’t know what’s going on or even how we feel about it at first, and then by the time the relative positions are back to normal, there is no normal anymore.

And we live through all of that with Hadley. Her emotions, raw and real and even sometimes ugly, live off the page and within us. I’m not a person who cries at books or movies or tv shows (with the exception of Doctor Who Doomsday, in which case I bawl like a frickin’ baby) but I spent at least the final quarter, maybe even third, of the book choked up and blinking. Despite the fact that the third person present tense freaked me out at every point, I was emotionally invested. It wasn’t just that I cared about what happened to Hadley- it was that I needed soemthing good to happen for her. I needed Hadley and Oliver to have a real shot at something- something that could work against everything that’s bringing them across the ocean, something genuine and good- because I remembered how much I’d needed that something good to happen in my life.

This is a beautiful, powerful book, a book that threads through our own memories and experiences, a book that looks for the impossible in the everyday.

I wish I could speak about this book half so coherently as I want to, but frankly I can’t. This book was amazing and completely unexpected, the type of book I would never in a million years have thought I’d fall in love with but something I can’t imagine having not read.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith.

Read. This. Book.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Reviews, Impulses, and the Mental Censor Button

January 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm (General, Industry) (, , , )

So there’s been a kerfuffle recently (isn’t that a surprise). Bookalicious Pam has a good recap of it, including a link to the review and a screenshot of the rant that started it all. Long story short, a blogger posted a review of a book she disliked, the author freaked out on her, and the internet exploded.

It’s got a lot of people talking, mostly for the positive. A lot of what’s come out of this is authors reminding each other to cool their t**s and reviewers supporting each other. Plus the authors supporting the bloggers and the bloggers supporting the authors, which is one of the amazing things about the YA community. Sometimes the drama makes me feel like I’m back in high school, but the overall support system can’t be denied.

Last week I talked about my resolution-ish-type-things for 2012.

Now I’m going to talk about a few things that go deeper than resolutions and are meant for far more than the coming year.

Reviews are, when pared down to absolute bone and blood, opinions. Everyone who reads a book forms an opinion about it. Some of us share those opinions with friends, or with customers, or with people in a book club. Some of us share them with the internet. Sometimes we gush, sometimes we skewer, sometimes we analyze, we go over books in every possible way, but the method of sharing never changes the fact of what we’re sharing: opinions. Everyone is entitled to them, and everyone is entitled to share them.

It is an actual impossibility for every person to love or even like every book they read. Anyone who says they’ve never disliked a book obviously hasn’t read enough at all. People who read inevitably find books they don’t like. Maybe even books they hate. Books that leave them with a lingering sense of ‘meh’. This is a thing called “life”. Just as everyone won’t want to be your friend, not everyone will love every book.

And for authors, this can be heart-wrenching. By the time a book gets into our hands as readers, authors have put their blood, sweat, and tears into the thing for years. This is their brain-child, their baby. This is all the most vulnerable pieces of themselves, bound and packaged for your convenience. When an author puts a book on the shelf, it’s like tearing their heart out of their chest and putting it on display.

And as readers, we judge that.

We judge the books, evaluate them for merit. We compare them to other books by that author, to other books by other authors. We compare them to our expectations, to the hype, the reviews. We compare and we judge.

THE BOOKS.

A good reviewer, a good blogger, judges THE BOOKS. Not the author.

A review, even a negative one, is not a judgement about the author personally. We may mention something publicly available about the author (like the fact that Maureen Johnson is absolutely crazy in the best possible way on Twitter) but we are not addressing their worth as a person. We are not insulting them, we are not challenging them, we are not stomping all over them. We’re talking about the book.

I hate Wuthering Heights. Hate it with a passion, and I can go on and on and on about all the reasons I hate that book. One of my best friends from high school? LOVED IT. As I Lay Dying? I loathed it. She put quotes from it all over her backpack. She and I had differing opinions about pretty much everything we read for classes. Even the ones we both liked we liked for different reasons. Same for the ones we both disliked. And we’re just two people. Here’s the thing, though: when I told my junior English teacher that Going After Cacciato wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, I wasn’t saying anything about Tim O’Brien. When the only thing that made me finish House of Spirits was the very real need to get a good grade in that class, I wasn’t leveling insults at Isabel Allende. Maybe a few at my teacher for making me read it. None at the author.

I read a lot of books. A LOT. Between new reads, re-reads, and manuscript reads, I read almost 300 books last year, in addition to a full time job, starting the blog, and researching/writing/editing/querying. I do a review a week. The math isn’t difficult- I read a hell of a lot more books than I review here. I pick and choose what I review, and because of that, I’m able to make a few choices about what I want to review.

For the most part, the books you’ll see reviewed on here are ones that I liked, really liked, or loved. I don’t tend to do negative reviews for a very simple reason: with all the books that I enjoyed to talk about, why would I waste my time talking about books I didn’t like? I’m a reader and a writer, but I’m also a bookseller: when I’m talking about books at work, it’s generally for the purpose of making a sale. I’m not going to try and convince someone not to buy a book.

Well, sometimes, but usually only because I’d rather they not give an eight-year-old a book with a graphic blowjob in the first sixty pages. And then I hand them a different book.

When I do a negative review, I try to make sure it’s balanced, not just because I like to be fair but also because if I’m spending the time on writing a negative review, it’s because there were other pieces that I really, really liked. Because I really wanted to love the book and there parts that did win that love, which made it all the more frustrating that I encountered pieces that didn’t work for me. A recent example of this? Legend, by Marie Lu. I really wanted to love that book and there were a lot of things about it that I do love, and because of that I hold it to a more exacting standard.

It’s that whole school thing again. A teacher expects more out of the students who routinely work hard and get good grades. A student who always gets Cs? It’s not going to cause any surprise or unexpected or strong emotion in the teacher. A student who always gets As and then gets a C? Then the teacher isn’t just surprised- they’re disappointed. Because they expected more. Because they know everything that student has to offer, because they’ve seen it before. Because they expect to see it again.

I don’t do many negative reviews. There are so many other books to talk about that I just don’t spend the time on negative reviews unless I can give equal attention to the things that blew me away, not just the things that disappointed me.

That’s a personal choice, and I fully respect the choice of others to do negative reviews. I learn a lot from other people’s negative reviews. And the thing about a negative review is that it doesn’t necessarily stop me from reading a book. Sometimes if a person’s general taste runs counter to mine, I find that what they dislike I’ll probably like, and vice versa. Sometimes the dislike comes down to a specific point that I don’t mind. There are only two conditions that lead me to not read a book based on a review:
1. It’s one of a slew of reviews, from people whose taste I generally trust, that all dislike the book. Maybe it’s just that there’s comfort in numbers, but if a number of people I usually agree with don’t like it, chances are decent that I won’t either, and I’d rather put my time towards books I’m probable to like.
2. I’m already waffling on the book. If I’m looking into a book and I’m leaning more towards not reading it, a negative review is only reinforcing the idea I already have. It’s not planting the seed.

When I post a negative review, I’m still only talking about the book. When I discussed what I didn’t like about Legend, I wasn’t calling Marie Lu any names. I was not making rude comments about her antecedents or background. I wasn’t being personal. It’s just about the book, and about my reaction to it.

And not everyone will agree with it. I understand that and more, I respect that. Even more, I like that. What a boring place book communities would be if everyone thought the same things! So when I post a review on Mastiff and people comment about how they really didn’t like Farmer, I’m not taking that as an insult on my ability to review. It’s not that I’m wrong. It’s not that the commenter is wrong. Guess what, there’s isn’t a right or wrong answer with this kind of thing. Sometimes a comment agrees with me and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s fine either way.

As long as the comment isn’t an attack about me or the author.

There are people who can skewer books so thoroughly I can’t safely drink anything in front of the computer for fear of sneezing soda over the keyboard and screen. Cleolinda, for example, whose Twilight recaps make me giggle and snort in public, can be absolutely merciless when it comes to the books. THE BOOKS. I lack the talent to be that funny so I don’t try. I stick to what I do well, which is talk about books I love.

If it’s a review I’m proud of, on a book I loved, I’ll usually tag the author on Twitter. They’ll either read it or they won’t. If it’s a less than glowing review, I don’t tag them. Why would I? That’s just being hateful. But remember the whole “book as baby” concept; just as mothers really love to hear that thier children are cute and wonderful, authors really love to hear that people enjoyed their books.

But every time an author clicks on a link to a review, it’s a crap shoot. Positive? Negative? Fun? Mocking? Glowing? Hateful? An author never knows what they’re going to get if they click on that link. Being an author, being published, doesn’t change the fact that an author is a person, with all the normal instincts and reactions as all the other people. It doesn’t matter that the negative things are being said about the book; it’s still their baby, and it still hurts. An author is a person with feelings that can get hurt by what we have to say.

But an author is also a step removed from a person, in that an author is also a business. People who review books? Buy books. People who read reviews? Buy books. As readers, we are directly playing into the continued life of an author’s career. As a business, authors cannot publicly rant about bad reviews. Not convinced? Check out the fairly recent drama with Ocean Marketing. It’s the oh-holy-hell-I-probably-shouldn’t-be-laughing-but-this-is-unfrickingbelievable story of a man who decided to piss all over someone buying his product. And, of course, given that this takes place in the real world in which we live, it’s also about the consequences of such an act.

Authors are a business, a name brand and a product and a public image. They’re still people, but ranting and pissing and moaning about negative reviews? Need to be private. Not public.

Because the simple truth is, reviews aren’t written to flatter the author. That’s what Twitter is for, to gush and to compliment. That’s what events and signings are for, to be able to walk up to an author and say how much you love their book. To them. Reviews are meant to share opinions about a book, and they’re meant for other readers. They’re meant for people who may not have heard about a particular book, who may be curious about the book, people who aren’t sure whether or not they want to read a book, people who want to talk about a book they’ve read. Reviews are for readers and for booksellers. Not for authors.

As a reviewer, do I love when an author reads my review and likes it? ABSOLUTELY. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like a Hallmark card. But I’m not writing the review for the author. I’m writing the review because I have an opinion to share about a book, because I want to share that opinion with fellow readers, and because I hope other people with share their opinions with me.

As a writer, I understand the pain of negative reviews. I’ve gotten negative reviews for fanfic, and some of those negative reviews are so badly written they’re practically a joke, easy to brush off, but the ones that are even-keeled and calm, the ones that are well-written and intelligent and well supported from the text…those can hurt. Even if the person isn’t being hateful. It hurts when someone doesn’t like what you’ve labored so long and so hard to create. When someone dislikes something you’ve put your whole heart into, it feels like they’re disliking you personally.

But it’s NOT PERSONAL.

And shooting off at the mouth as if it was- ranting and insulting a blogger who may have just put hard-earned money towards your book- is the same as telling people you don’t want them to buy your book.

In retail, one of the first things we’re taught is the Rule of 3 and 30. The average person who has a fantastic, amazing, above and beyond customer service experience in your store? Will tell three people. The average person who has a crummy, insulting, or generally negative customer service experience in your store? Will tell thirty people. And in the age of facebook and blogs and twitter, that can quickly multiply to hundreds or thousands. People talk more about the bad experiences than the good ones.

So when an author rants about a blogger who gave their honest opinion about a book (and in my opinion, wasn’t hateful or inappropriate at all), the end result isn’t that people think that blogger must be wrong.

The end result is that people think that author is an asshole. And then choose not to buy that author’s books.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Everyone is entitled to share that opinion, and while it could certainly be hoped for that people will share that opinion politely, it’s not mandatory.

Reviewers are allowed to write and post a negative review.

Authors are allowed to feel hurt by a negative review.

But take a moment, take a few deep breaths, and conquer that impulse to rant and rave about it in a public space. Call your best friend, your parents, your significant other. Write a journal entry. Bake a cake and write the words in frosting. But keep the reaction in a private space.

I call it my Mental Censor Button.

It’s the thing that keeps me from getting fired. When I have a PITA customer, the Mental Censor Button is the thing that keeps me from informing them that they’ve just made my day hell. The censor button is what allows me to smile (however strained it may be) and tell someone to have a nice day in a voice that at least approaches sincerity. it’s the thing that lets me bite my lip against cracking an inappropriate joke when someone doesn’t realize how they just misspoke. It’s the thing that lets me be polite and sociable, it’s the thing that lets me give stellar customer service even to the people who piss me off beyond the ability of words to describe.

And it’s something we all need.

So I’m making you a promise: my reviews will never attack an author. Whether I love the book or hate it, my review will always be focused ON THE BOOK. No matter what I think of the final product, I respect the time and effort that went into crafting it, and I respect the author for having the courage to put it out there, for having the determination and drive to pursue their goal past all the obstacles. I respect the strength it takes to put themselves out there. I respect that, whatever my opinion, it is just one opinion, and that there will be others who disagree with me. I respect the opinions of my fellow bloggers, whether I agree with them or not, and I respect a person’s right to post a negative review.

Fortunately, this is the standard. The drama happens because one or two or a handful of people on either end misbehave, but we’re lucky to be part of a community that, for the most part, fully embraces the wide range of opinions and the right of people to express that in whatever way they choose.

And I’m grateful for it.

Until next time~
Cheers

Added 1.10- a really good, insightful post about the author/reviewer positions on Dear Author.
-a fabulous post by Veronica Roth over on YA Highway.

Added 1.11- Stacia Kane weighs in from an author’s side of things as well, in a series: Something in the Water; Freedom of Speech ; and I’m Not a Reader

Added 1.17- a post from Maggie Stiefvater in response to the Guardian’s ridiculosity.
-Cleolinda’s take on reviews
-a rather hysterical take on the drama- TONGUE IN CHEEK– sarcasm doesn’t always come across in writing, so please don’t think this author is actually advocating the behaviors portrayed.

Added 1.20- a post from Lisa Schroeder

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Book Review: Incarnate, by Jodi Meadows

January 4, 2012 at 1:29 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

In the land of Range, souls are reborns across thousands of years, a million souls that all know each other, that all carry the knowledge of hundreds of lifetimes.
Ana is new.
No one knows why or how, only that she is a new soul, a replacement for another who wasn’t reborn. Some call her a thief, or a bad omen. Some call her a wonder. Many call her nosoul. But a journey to the city of Heart, and a library that contains all the knowledge of those million souls, may give her the first clues into the mystery of her birth. She just has to survive the journey, the sylph and dragon attacks, the people who may or may not be trying to kill her…and a love as painful and tentative as it is wondrous.

I first talked about this book a few months ago in one of my Cover Love posts, and oh, you guys, I am so glad I snagged an advance of this one. I can normally do the responsible thing and put the books down for bedtime when I have to work the next morning, especially if I know it’s going to be a really active-need-all-thought-capacities-in-place kind of day, but there was no putting this one down until it was done. I stayed up waaaaaaaay too late because I could not stop reading this book.

This is a story steeped in a history from which we always feel slightly removed. It’s all around us, we learn about it, but we’re always a step apart because Ana is. What others simply remember, she has to learn. Ana as a character is beautifully layered, her personal history evident in almost everything she does, in the way she reacts to everything she encounters. This is a girl whose instincts have been absolutely brutalized by years of emotional (and physical) abuse, someone who has been completely cut off from others and can therefore only base her expectations for their behavior off of the one person she does know: her mother, Li, who was spent her entire life savaging her, hating her, for what she is and reminding her again and again that she’s a worthless nosoul, a thief incapable of any real feeling or accomplishment. Though Ana doesn’t want to believe it, though she rails against it, she does believe it. It’s a part of her, a convinction of her own lack of self worth that makes it extremely difficult for her to trust other people, that makes it very hard for her to have faith that she’s not being mocked or set up to fail. She’s bristly and defensive, overwhelmed and a little bit snarly about all the things she doesn’t know, but there are times- amazing, heart-warming moments- where she gets to experience something with a child’s sense of unfettered wonder.

The relationship between Ana and Sam is a difficult one, beautifully so, because it takes a long time for there to be anything approaching equal footing between them. Sam is thousands of years of experience and memories and relationships in an eighteen year old body. Ana is simply eighteen. The things he takes for granted she’s never come up against before, but the delight he finds in her accomplishments is overshadowed by her interpretation of mockery. He rarely outright lies to her but he keeps things from her constantly; he’s dishonest not just with her but also with himself, about his feelings for her, about what it could mean. It’s a relationship built off of a lot of misunderstandings, with moments fraught with tension that suddenly explodes, and it forces both of them to stretch and adapt in unaccustomed ways. The souls in Range have known each other for thousands of years, been connected in nearly every way possible over hundreds of lifetimes, but Ana is something new- which means that what’s between her and Sam is something entirely new as well, and that can be as terrifying and awkward and unwieldy as it is wonderful.

I think what really made me fall in love with this book as hard as I did was the music. Music carries the stories, carries the characters. I grew up with music as an extremely important part of my life, a part of pretty much everything I did, but the ability to write music, to craft it, is something that’s always eluded me. It’s astonishing to me that people can hear these gorgeous compositions inside their head and be able to translate it. Really even just the ability to put it together is staggering to me. The love of music is something Ana and Sam share, and even more, it’s a way they can find common ground, a way they can express themselves past the ability of words. It’s a solid, strong connection between them, a language all of its own, and it’s beautifully worked through both of their lives and the story itself.

It’s a beautifully crafted book, one built on a unique premise and a strong execution, one with an amazing world full of deadly creatures and walls with heartbeats, where hundreds of lifetimes still aren’t enough to teach a person all there is to know about the human spirit.

Incarnate, by Jodi Meadows, hits stores on 31 January 2012, so definitely check it out, and check back here during release week for my part of a VERY COOL blog tour celebrating the release. Trust me, guys, this tour is one thing you don’t want to miss, with lots of awesome prizes and giveaway chances, plus fun things to do across a lot of stops.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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2012 Resolution Type Things

January 1, 2012 at 12:01 am (General) (, , )

Back when I was in elementary and middle school, my teachers used to do an activity on the first day back to classes. They’d pass out funky paper, fun pens, and they’d tell us to think long and hard about our resolutions for the new year. What did we want to see in the next year? What kind of things did we want to do, to achieve? How did we want to improve the next year? They gave us about two minutes to do that whole “think long and hard” thing, and I know most of them were probably hoping that “study more” would appear on the lists somewhere.

I hated it. Every time.

‘Cuz here’s the thing: if I want to work to improve myself, why should I wait until New Years’ to do it? It seemed pretty lazy. And then, of course, there’s the prevailing attitude that New Years’ Resolutions are things that are set up to fail. They’re the promises you make to fit in and feel better, the promises that tend to flow with the champagne, and then they bite the dust two weeks into January. I can’t even think of the last time someone I know has made a NYR with any sincerity, much less put any effort into fulfilling. I know I’ve personally been avoiding them like the plague ever since those silly assignments. I felt like a fake writing down stupid little goals that weren’t any different from what I was already doing (trying to get good grades, etc).

But.

As I’m getting older, I’m understanding the appeal the making goals for the coming year. It’s not a wish- not magically hoping that I’ll lose twenty pounds or become a princess or anything- it’s a decision. These are things that I’m deciding to do. It’s looking at what I’ve achieved in the previous year and using that as a guage for what I can reasonably expect to do in the next year. And then it’s adding a little something purely for the challenge, so I can continue to grow and expand, so that I can push myself in ways I otherwise might not.

In 2011, I:

-started this blog. I wrote out book reviews before but just kept them in a notebook or maybe posted one or two on facebook, but I’d never really thought about doing anything with them. Then I woke up one day and figured why the hell not? Customers at work always seemed interested in my opinions on books, why not see if others are too? And I’ve learned a ton by writing these entries. Reading books with an eye towards writing a review makes me look at it more closely, makes me figure out what I like or don’t like about it- and why. I have to be able to be specific, which means I’m recognizing patterns across YA writing as a whole, recognizing how certain authors both carry and vary style across different books and series. It also means that I’m learning how to apply that understanding to my own work.

-finished two first drafts. One of these will never, ever see the light of day. It is a trunk novel, and needs to always remain that way. I’m still glad I wrote it, I learned a lot from writing it, and I’ll be pillaging from it like crazy because it’s got a lot of good bones, it just doesn’t all belong together. As for the other, well, that leads to the next point.

-I edited one of those drafts, multiple times, and- completely unexpectedly- I fell in love with what resulted. Usually I adore my first drafts, I let them sit for a little bit so I can come back to it a little more neutral, and then it’s a coin toss for which of two things happen. 1: I’m too attached and can’t see where I can make changes, and then I get frustrated, and then I get angry, and then the prospect of sitting down to real editing becomes mentally- and almost physically- painful. Or 2: I start getting into the edits and I find a ton of things to change and then I get depressed because really, if I’m having to make this many changes that means I wrote a crap first draft that I was nonetheless very proud of. And I KNOW that first drafts are meant to be crap. They’re meant to be refined by edits and subsequent drafts. But knowing that and actually being able to process through that are very different things. But as I was doing these edits, I was able to make the changes I needed to make and still be absolutely in love with it.

-I queried. Two different projects, actually, NOT AT THE SAME TIME. (That’s a very important distinction). About halfway through the year, I realized as I was looking at my rejections that the project I was querying probably needed some tweaks. I was getting some bites but not much in the way of feedback, which after a while I took to mean that it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t enough. It needed more-…something. I haven’t necessarily figured out what yet. But the number of rejections had gotten high enough that I decided to stop sending that one out, let it sit for a while, and then get back to it to see if I can ways to inject that elusive more into it. So I tackled that edited piece, drove myself crazy writing a query letter, discarding it, writing another one, discarding it, writing another one…I went through over a dozen drafts of a query letter before I finally produced one I was happy with. And I started querying. Again. But it meant I was still going. I wasn’t giving up. I was moving forward. And this time I saw the difference.

-I researched. I always research for my projects, but this next project has a massive amount of research needed for it, enough that even after six months I’m still a little scared of it. But I’ve been tackling it, and tackling it, keeping at it, and I’ve made a TON of progress. And it’s not just that I’m learning the details and timelines that are essential for getting very important things right, but the research is also educating me on my story. I’m learning exactly how my characters are fitting into the bigger picture, learning the events that change them in significant ways. Most importantly, I’m not half-assing it. I’m not skimming through things and calling it good enough, I’m not just looking up a date here or there. It’s hard work, at times frustrating, but I’m doing it, and the story will be much, much better for it.

-I didn’t break into my savings account. I’ve only had a savings account for a little over a year, and even that’s pretty astounding. I largely live paycheck to paycheck, even though I have no life and therefore spend very little outside of bills and books. Money is really tight for a LOT of people right now, and I happen to be one of them, but despite some close calls this year, I was able to make it through without breaking into that savings account. There’s not even that much in there, but it’s more than I’ve had in there before, and I’m trying to put that to a very specific purpose. I’m rather proud of myself that it’s all still there.

So, that’s 2011. And looking at all of that, looking at the year ahead, I’ve decided on a few things that I want to do. Are there mistier goals that would be really, REALLY nice to achieve? Absolutely! But these are purely the things I have control over. These are the things that I can directly influence and work towards. For lack of a better word, we can call them Resolutions.

In 2012, I will:

-finish this set of research. I can see over the stack of books now, so there’s actually hope. Rather than give up, rather than shave off books in the name of possibly finishing sooner, I will do all of my research, and I will not procrastinate. I will get it done.

-write two first drafts. Given the necessary balance of full time job, home responsibilities, blog, reading, and research, this seems like a fair goal for a year. More importantly, these will be the ones for which I’m doing all this research.

-edit at least one of those first drafts. The time it takes for me to let a book stew and then do the edits is usually about as long as it takes me to write the draft in the first place. These edits will be even more involved, as they’ll involve a LOT of fact-checking. But I WILL do it.

-maintain the blog. I have a way of giving up on things, or maybe just after a while getting a little bored with things, or maybe bowing under the pressure of a lot of different responsibilities, or maybe even just running into walls and finding difficulties in writing the posts. There are a lot of reasons to fall behind, and I am determined not to do it. For this, I’m counting on all of you to keep me accountable.

-keep querying. Keep learning, keep adapting and tweaking, keep sending. Basically just keep putting myself out there. I’d love to be able to say my resolution is to sign with an agent, but realistically I have no control over that. What I DO have control over is my decision to keep querying, to keep trying. Even through rejections or no-answers, the thing I can control is NOT GIVE UP.

-not break into the savings account except for the purpose for which it was actually started. The savings account was started as a moving fund- IF I can make sure that all the rest of the move is fiscally reasonable (as in, I won’t put every penny into the move and suddenly find myself drowning in debt once I get there). But, I’m not touching the money if it’s not for the move, and I will continue to put money into it each month.

2012 will likely be a lot like 2011. There’ll be ups and downs, surprises and let-downs. There’ll be the moments that make me want to cheer and the moments that make me want to scream. I’ll make friends and drift away from friends, I may lose people I love. I’ll both love and hate my job, for all its highs and lows. I don’t expect 2012 to be magical or astounding. I might hope that- I do hope that- but I don’t expect it.

Instead, I expect to meet the distinct goals I’ve set for myself.

And you? What goals have you set for yourself this new year? What are your resolutions?

More importantly, may you all have a bright and brilliant New Year, and thank you all for joining me here.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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