May 30, 2011

YA Through The Ages: the 21st Century (so far)

We've seen the appallingly few books that were available to teens in the 1800s and early 1900s. We've looked at the amazingly cheesy covers of books from the '60s and '70s. We've discussed how YA fiction exploded in the '80s and '90s. Which brings us to...the present.

There have been so many YA books published in the past decade that there's no way that I can possibly begin to cover all of them. So here are just a few, divided into categories (and yes, some of them fit into more than one category, but I liked the symmetry of having three in each):

The Such-A-Big-Phenomenon-We're-Making-Movies-Of-Them books:

1.) The rest of the Harry Potter series. No one can dispute how influential these books have been. Thank you J.K. Rowling!

I think my favourite cover is the Order of the Phoenix one — I love the warm colours and graceful strokes used for the phoenix!

2.) The Twilight series. I know, there is a big love-it-or-hate-it divide among readers about this series, but let's face facts — it was enormously popular and spawned a huge number of other paranormal reads.
I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it, but I do own three out of the four Twilight books. And I do think the covers are pretty :D
3.) The Hunger Games series. Much less controversy over these than Twilight — their awesomeness seems to be unanimously agreed upon. And they're pretty much solely responsible for the current explosion of dystopian YA books.

The Less-Hyped-But-Widely-Recommended-By-YA-Readers books:

6.) John Green's books — such as Looking for Alaska (2005; 2006 Printz Award winner), An Abundance of Katherines (2006), and Paper Towns (2008). Personally I haven't read a lot of his books, but he's been one of the authors responsible for keeping contemporary YA on the map. Along with...

7.) Sarah Dessen's books — such as This Lullaby (2002), The Truth About Forever (2004), Just Listen (2006), and Along For The Ride (2009). I've actually only read a few of hers too (okay, okay, I don't read tons of contemp YA) but we all know how well her books have been received by YA readers.

8.) Neil Gaiman's books — such as American Gods (2001), Anansi Boys (2005), and The Graveyard Book (2008; 2009 Newbery Medal). I haven't read any of these, actually — suggestions for which to start with?

The This-Series-Has-An-Almost-Cultish-Fanbase books:

9.) The Mortal Instruments series — Cassandra Clare has an absolutely massive following of fans for these books.
Although what is up with the covers? I like the silhouetted cityscape but why must you cut off his head? And why is his shirtless chest shooting out rays of light?

5.) The Uglies series — Scott Westerfeld was way ahead of the dystopian bandwagon with these.

10.) The Vampire Academy series — these are on my list to read because most bloggers seem to swear by them.

 The covers need some work, though. They're not terrible but they don't stand out among all the other paranormal YA books...and they don't even stand out from each other! Judging by the covers you'd think these were the same story with three different titles.

The Recognized-By-Literary-Awards books:

4.) The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak (2005). One of just a few YA books that has been able to make the crossover to an adult audience, and a 2007 Printz Honor book.

5.) Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2006). 2009 Printz Award winner. What I've read of this one didn't work for me, but I know lots of other bloggers who rave about it.

6.) How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (2004). 2005 Printz Award winner. I'm not actually sure if I've read this one or not — I might have years ago, but I may have confused it with a completely different book.

The Personal-Favourites-Of-Mine books:

1.) The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (2003). I love this fairy tale retelling so much.

The free-flowing lines of the art here give it that perfect windswept, anything-can-happen look.
2.) Feeling Sorry for Celia (2001) and The Year of Secret Assignments (2003) by Jaclyn Moriarty. She has the most amazing ability to create such distinct characters.

Normally I would not be a fan of hot pink, especially not combined with green. But the book is quirky so it kinda works.
3.) The Mediator series. Sure, these are light, "fluffy" paranormal books — but they're lots of fun!

So, which are your favourites of the past decade? What books do you think have been over-hyped or under-appreciated? What topics, genres or categories have been missed? In terms of minority groups, which we've seen all along have struggled to be represented in YA, I think LGBT books have done much better in the past decade than previous ones, but POC characters continue to be under-represented. Also, cover design has really evolved immensely over even the past 20 years. They only recently started using photos for some covers, rather than illustrations.

And what do you think the future holds for YA for the rest of the 21st century? Any guesses as to what it will look like 10 years from now? What will be the next big trend when paranormal and dystopian have run their course?

This is effectively the last post in this series, although I think at some point I'll make a post linking to some of the resources I used to research these books. I learned a lot about YA from writing these posts, and I hope you enjoyed reading them!

May 26, 2011

Armchair BEA: Pitches from a Blogger's Perspective

Today's Armchair BEA topic is on nurturing book blogging relationships, and one of the aspects they mentioned was the ideal book pitch. A lot of my experience is with authors (often, but not always, self-published) pitching me a book for review, and from that experience I've come up with ten suggestions that will make a pitch more appealing to me:

1.) Be personal. I'm sure I'm not the only blogger who likes to be addressed by name. Let me know that you've visited my blog!

2.) That said, please get my name and my blog name right. Otherwise I can tell that you've been hard at work cutting-and-pasting.

3.) Don't act like my review is a done deal. You're trying to convince me here, not the other way around.

4.) Your book description should not have me reading for days. A paragraph is great, but I don't need an overview of the entire storyline.

5.) Links are good. Link me to your webpage, link me to sample chapters, etc. Just make sure all the links are clear and that they work.

6.) Let me know what format(s) your book is available for review in.

7.) Don't sound doesn't come off well. If you're having trouble getting reviews, please, don't tell me that. It's like shooting yourself in the foot.

8.) Your e-mail should not contain lots of grammatical or spelling errors. I can overlook the odd typo — we're all human — but if it's riddled with mistakes, it does not give me confidence that the book will be any better.

9.) Don't give me the lengthy tale of how you came to write the book. Sure, a few lines are okay, but I don't need to know your life story.

10.) I know you're trying to pitch the book persuasively, but please don't go over the top and tell me it's the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games.

Bloggers, anything I missed? What will help/hurt a book pitch for you? :)

May 25, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Truth About Celia Frost

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's pick:

The Truth About Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne

Description from the website:

"Celia Frost is a freak. At least that's what everyone thinks. Her life is ruled by a rare disorder that means she could bleed to death from the slightest cut, confining her to a gloomy bubble of “safety". No friends. No fun. No life.

But the truth about Celia is more dangerous than she could ever imagine - and it's about to catch up with her.

A buried secret; a gripping manhunt; a dangerous deceit: what is the truth about Celia Frost?"

The premise of this one sounds really fascinating... a rare blood disorder + secrets + a manhunt?? Creepy... I'm not a huge fan of the cover, although I do like the stamped effect of the bold font.

And to whet your appetite a bit more, here's the trailer:

What book are you waiting on?

May 24, 2011

Don't Stop Now: Review

Take the disappearance of a not-so-close friend.

Add a promise not to tell, some calls from the cops and FBI, and a spontaneous road trip with your best friend/crush.

Mix in some tourist attractions, metaphors, and close-to-the-heart confessions along the way.

The result? Don't Stop Now by Julie Halpern.


Don't Stop Now is all about the characters and their relationships. Often if characters frustrate me a little but I keep on reading, that's a good sign that there's some great characterization going on there, and that's what I found with this novel. The main characters are given enough flaws that they seem like real people, but not so reprehensible that you give up because you just can't stand them.

Lillian: she isn't the most likeable protagonist right off the bat, but Lillian grows on you. She's got a strong sense of herself, her opinions and her wants — no weak, wishy-washy protagonist here — but she has to learn to see things from others' perspectives as well. Her friendship, if you can call it that, with Penny is key in this area, because at the beginning of the novel she doesn't really care very much about Penny. The stabs of conscience she feels over the knowledge that perhaps she might have been able to prevent Penny's disappearance annoy Lillian more than anything else, and she uses Penny's faked kidnapping as an excuse to spend time with Josh on a roadtrip. Concern about whether Penny is actually safe? Not so much.

And while Lillian sometimes gets annoyed with Josh's immaturity, she's not exactly a model of responsibility and common sense herself. She talks to Penny more than once without managing to get an address for her; while I understand that there probably wouldn't have been a story if Lillian had been a little savvier or rule-obeying, it didn't reflect particularly well on her. Eventually, towards the end of the novel, Lillian does seem to come to some realizations about how she's been acting and what she should do to help Penny. Spoilers, highlight to read: she basically admits to herself that a) the reason she's on this roadtrip is not really to find Penny, but to move her relationship with Josh in a different direction, b) that Penny's parents and friends deserve to know that she's okay, and c) that she can encourage Penny to do the right thing, rather than covering for her or turning her in (both of which put events into Lillian's control).

Josh: so while I didn't always agree with Lillian's decisions and actions (lying to the cops and FBI is not really my thing) I did appreciate her as a character who felt 3-D and real.  Likewise, Josh sometimes irritated me as well, but he too was a mix of good and bad. I didn't blame Lillian one bit for calling him out on his immaturity when it came to the future and his career plans (or lack thereof — a band? Really?) or his mixed signals when it came to their relationship. His carefree, blase attitude towards life in general, taking for granted that everything will work out just fine, made me want to shake some sense into him. However, we can see that he's been a close, loyal friend to Lillian and that they have a strong bond and shared memories.

Lillian & Josh: Halpern was able to create a pair of characters where I wasn't sure if I was rooting for them to get together romantically or stay friends. Honestly, this is a bit of a rare occurrence; usually I'm either cheering for the guy and girl to admit they're in love, or I'm going, "no, they're all wrong for each other." Well, with these two I kept hemming and hawing, seeing both sides of it and not knowing which side I should land on. It was clear that they had a long history of being friends, and that they both relied on each other in different ways, but I also got the sense that they didn't have as much in common now as they used to. So I was caught between "Awww, they obviously care about each other, there could definitely be something there," and "They are good friends, but if they're going down such different paths, I don't see much of a future there romantically." The only thing I knew for sure was that I thought they should give it a try. No spoiling, but because of this see-sawing I was experiencing, I thought the way the book ended was very fitting.

Penny: while her narrative is sympathy-inducing, I felt like we only see one side of her — the girl caught in an unhealthy relationship — which made her character seem a bit stereotyped. The excerpts from her point of view helped to give us a sense of where she was coming from, but I would have liked to see other facets of her character. I think there was a completely separate story happening with Penny, that we are just given glimpses of; it comes across quite obviously that this book is Josh and Lillian's tale, not Penny's.


From the description the book comes across like a bit of a mystery, but that's really not the case. The focus of the story is not on Lillian and Josh finding out where Penny is and what happened, but on their experiences on the road and their relationship dynamics. The pace is slow and easy for a journey that's supposed to be all about tracking down a missing person, which is reflective not only of Lillian and her "friendship" with Penny, but also of Josh's laid-back devil-may-care personality. Frankly, they're mostly on this roadtrip to enjoy themselves, even if they may pretend it's for more altruistic reasons. I did often wish that Lillian cared more and realized the urgency and potential danger in Penny's situation, but I understand that this reflected her character and how she operated. Although I've gotta say, if I was in danger or need of help, I wouldn't be counting on Lillian or Josh to come to the rescue.

That said, I appreciated that the Penny disappearance sub-plot did keep the story moving and give it direction. I thought the ending was a bit rushed, everything wrapping up easily and conveniently with both Lillian and Penny coming (at least somewhat) to their senses. Spoiler: the discovery of Penny was quite coincidental (what are the odds that girl at the skateboard park would have seen her? What are the chances that they would bump into her at the tribute to Elvis building? Slim indeed.) Unfortunately we don't get to see the aftermath of Penny's storyline unfold, although we are given an idea of what might happen.


Since it's a roadtrip novel, the setting really adds to the storyline. Though their stops at each place are pretty brief, and I thought they could have used some more description, having the various tourist attractions sprinkled along the way was fun. Unique places like the House on the Rock, Mars' Cheese Castle, and the Corn Palace keep the story feeling fresh.

I did think, though, that a map might have been nice, so I could picture their journey (being Canadian, my knowledge of U.S. geography is slight indeed.)

Writing style:

I thought the use of excerpts from Penny's perspective at the end of each chapter was marvelously done, giving the reader an idea of how she got to where she is now without getting bogged down in any long flashbacks that would take away from the current storyline. Penny's darker story also makes for a nice counterpoint to the more upbeat vibe of the roadtrip.

For the most part the writing is smooth and flows well, and despite the relaxed pacing I don't recall that it took me very long to read. I did find some of the slang to be a bit confusing — I'm not sure if I'm just not familiar with it or if it's slang invented by the characters, but it made me go, "Do teens really talk like this?" a few times.

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. As you can see from how much I discussed them above, the characters are the lynchpin of this novel. If you're expecting an action-packed thriller, this isn't the book you're looking for. But if you'd like to take a gentle ride with a couple teens on a roadtrip where they learn a few things about themselves and others, then pick up this book, read the first page, and...

...well, don't stop now!

Disclaimer: I received the ARC of Don't Stop Now from the publisher for review.

Armchair BEA: Best of 2011 (and those still to come)

Today's topic for Armchair BEA is the books we've most enjoyed so far this year, and those we're looking forward to.

So, my list of best books I've read so far this year (I haven't read a lot of 2011 releases yet so many of these were published previous to 2011):

 1.) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (my review)

2.) Mistwood by Leah Cypess (my review)

3.) Divergent by Veronica Roth (my review)

4.) Enclave by Ann Aguirre (my review)

5.) Jasmyn by Alex Bell (my review)

6.) The Host by Stephenie Meyer

7.) Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

And the 2011 releases I'm looking forward to the most:

1.) The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
2.) Supernaturally by Kiersten White
3.) The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
4.) Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
5.) Crossed by Ally Condie
6.) A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young
7.) Nightspell by Leah Cypess

What books have you enjoyed/are looking forward to this year?

Griffin Rising Winner! has spoken, selecting #1, which was...

I've sent her an e-mail, and she has 48 hours to get back to me before I select another winner. Congrats! Edited to add: Julia has now claimed her prize!

May 23, 2011

Head's-Up: Inkpop Writing Contest & Live Chat

For all of you Melissa Marr fans out there, this week at there is a writing contest to win (along with other HarperTeen books) Darkest Mercy, the fifth and final book in her Wicked Lovely series.

The challenge? "Write a short story or poem that displays good conflict resolution. While the end results might always be fair to all those involved, your writing should seek to bring peace to the troubles at hand."

You can find all of the details about how to enter HERE. The deadline is May 26th.

And inkpop is also hosting a live chat this Wednesday with Josephine Angelini, author of the upcoming Starcrossed. She'll be discussing both her novel (a modern reimagining of Greek mythology) and her journey to being published. The chat is taking place at 5 pm EST on the inkpop forums thread if you'd like to stop on by!

Kicking Off Armchair BEA!

Hello fellow Armchair BEA participants! I totally wanted to go to BEA after hearing so much about it, but I'm still just a student right now and money is tight (plus I'm in Canada on the west coast, so it's quite the trip). So, I'm participating from afar through Armchair BEA!

Here's a little more info about me: I'm Danya, a self-proclaimed book and chocolate addict. I've been seriously book blogging since last July (just a couple more months until I celebrate my 1-year blogoversary!) and thoroughly enjoying it. I love reading YA in particular, and within that my tastes are pretty eclectic — I read fantasy, dystopian, historical, contemp and mystery (and even some paranormal from time to time). I have a BA in psychology so I particularly love books with fascinating characters and interpersonal relations.

Here are a few features on the blog: Forget-Me-Nots, where I periodically highlight a less well-known book from my childhood/teen years; Find the Gap (looking at gaps in YA fiction) and YA Through The Ages (an overview of YA from its earliest roots through to the present day) discussion series; and my Read Outside Your Comfort Zone Challenge (you can still join up!). And if you're a psych geek like me, you might enjoy the survey and related discussion I did recently involving favourite YA genres and connections to personality traits.

Anyway, if you're new to my blog, welcome! We can commiserate about missing BEA together :D

May 21, 2011

In My Mailbox (26)

In this meme, hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, we share the books we've received, bought or taken out from the library. This IMM post covers the past two weeks.

For review:
Haint Misbehavin'/Hainted Love by Maureen Hardegree galley from the publisher (thanks Belle Books!)

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier from the publisher (thanks Henry Holt Books for Young Readers!) — you probably can't tell from the photo but it is very metallic/shiny and there's a bit of embossing going on as well. Really the cover itself is a work of art!

From the library:

The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato
The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
13 Rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro

May 20, 2011

Forget-Me-Nots: Little Sister

Forget-Me-Nots is a feature on my blog for highlighting books I enjoyed in childhood and the teenage years that I don't see getting much attention nowadays.

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey

Goodreads' description:

"Like other noble girls in the imperial court, 13-year-old Mitsuko wears multilayered kimonos and hides her face behind her sleeve when in public. But tragic events prove that Mitsuko is no ordinary girl. When her village is attacked by outlaws and her sister's life is shattered, Mitsuko alone finds the courage to venture into the netherworld to find her sister's wandering spirit."

I'm sure I've mentioned before the interest I have (and especially had when I was younger) in all things Japanese. It eventually resulted in me going to Japan for a year to teach English! Anyway, this is a small treat of a novel for Japanese aficionados, especially those with interest in Japanese history, culture, and myths/legends. The protagonist Mitsuko starts out rather unsure of herself, but circumstances push her to grow into her own, along with the help of a tengu (shapeshifter). If you like historical Japan, fantasy, and coming-of-age stories, you should like this one. There's a sequel as well (The Heavenward Path) although I think I preferred the first book.
I know it's a little obscure, but has anyone else read this one? Plus, don't you love that cover?

May 18, 2011

Griffin Rising ARC Giveaway!

A while ago I was sent an ARC of Griffin Rising by Darby Karchut for review, and I've given it a try but I just don't think it's the right book for me. Since I don't review books I haven't finished, I thought I'd pass it on to another book blogger who might get more out of it and give it a review if they wish.

Goodreads' description:

"For Griffin, it’s time to angel up.

Armed with the power to control the ancient elements of Earth and Fire, sixteen year old Griffin is determined to complete his apprenticeship and rise to the rank of Terra Angeli.

But first, he must overcome a brutal past if he is to survive in this world. Will the perseverance of his mentor and the love of a mortal girl give Griffin the strength he needs to triumph over the monster still haunting him?

So, giveaway details:

- Entrants must be 13 years or older.
- Entrants must have a current book review blog.
- One entry per person, please. Following and tweeting are always appreciated but not required. Comments, while nice, do *not* count as entries.
- Giveaway is open to US/Canadian mailing addresses only.
- Ends May 23, 11:59 pm EST (apparently there could be a postal strike in the near future so I've moved up the deadline).
- Winner will be selected randomly and contacted by e-mail.

Contest is now closed.

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