January & February 2017, Part 1

Okay, so… You may be wondering where I’ve been and why this blog sat unused for a year. Since there’s neither an easy nor a legitimate one, I’ll spare us the word count. What I will say is this:

I’m back!

Time, once again, to blow off the dust and crack those knuckles. This is year three of participating in the PopSugar Reading Challenge. Suffice it to say, I’ve successfully completed last year’s challenge too. (I’ll fill in those posts later.)

So far, I’d say I’m pretty ahead of the game.  Three under my belt in January, and so far another five in February. (I know, it’s oddly disproportionate…)

Let me throw these up there and get back to blogging!

JANUARY

1
A Bestseller from 2016: The Nix, by Nathan Hill

This cover intrigued me, and after reading Eliot Schrefer’s positive review, I decided I could justify picking it up. Really quite funny, and oddly appropriate timing due to today’s political climate…

2
A book with a cat on the cover: Culdesac, by Robert Repino

In preparation for the sequel to Mort(e), which was surprise news, I found this novella to hold me over! While you don’t have to have read Mort(e), it does help flesh out another quite memorable character, Culdesac. This had less to do with the ants, and more to do with the happenings in a small town during the war. D’Arc, the conclusion of the series, is out in May.

3
A book that is a story within a story: Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld

One that’s been on my TBR list for a while — Also a fun motivator for participating in NaNoWriMo (which is, again, very tempting). Diverse, LGBT love story, mixed with supernatural romance. This book almost was a choice for last year but I used a different one instead. Still glad to have picked this one up.

FEBRUARY, Part 1

4
A book about a difficult topic: My Heart and Other Black Holes, by Jasmine Warga

This one had been recommended by Cara Bertrand when it first came out, and though I would comfortably set this with many other “typical” YA realistic fiction books, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it! Flawed and damaged characters are always so interesting to read, and Warga did a nice job of describing what it feels like to be dispassionate with the angst of teen years. One of my cousins is really interested in reading this one, so I’m sending it along to her! (Any chance I have to spread the love of reading, I’ll take it!)

5
A book with multiple authors: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

I like to read at least one of David’s books each year, and I knew when I saw this prompt, that I would use one of David’s many collaborations as the one to read. Naomi & Ely has also been turned into a movie (which you can now watch on Netflix). While I often have a difficult time relating to mostly-well-off NYC teens, the feelings of friendship and love still resonate through the work.

6
A book from a nonhuman perspective: The Diabolic, by S.J. Kincaid

When I saw my old book club choose this title, I thought: but you only choose paperback books… As this is a new release, it must be REALLY good if everyone voted to read it! I was not disappointed! I certainly hope there’s another book after this one! Another book where timely political messages come through. I thought a great deal about The Capitol from The Hunger Games, and a touch of Red Rising. Admittedly, I cheated a bit by using this book for this prompt. The main character, while genetically created to resemble humans, is not quite human, but rather human in appearance (and some temperaments). Certainly recommended!

7
A book you loved as a child: My Dinosaur Adventure: a personalized storybook, by Karen M. Hefty & Valarie Webb

This is one you won’t find anywhere else, it was a “Create-a-Book” given to me on my 6th birthday. I was amazed when I read the book and saw that it was about me! My name, and those in my family, were written in as characters. The story is about me waking up to find a unicorn named Ariel at my bedroom window. I’m whisked away to the Land of Dinosaurs to find my birthday cake. Since dinosaurs have such small brains, they forgot where they put it! With the help of many new dinosaur friends, the cake was found and a grand party was had! (I also had a dinosaur cake for my birthday that year.)

8
A book that’s a character’s name: The Death and Life and Zebulon Finch

Just look at that cover! It begs to be read, and that’s precisely why I wanted it. This happens to be a signed copy, thanks to my fellow librarian friend’s last trip to Book Expo. Zebulon Finch was exactly as I thought it would be: an historic tour of America, with a bit of creepiness. While by no means a full tour, this volume covers about 50-60 years. A young gangster is gunned down, and mysteriously comes back to life… not as a flesh-eating zombie, but as an animated corpse. Yet another instance I’m pleased to move on to the sequel.

Off to a good start, and nothing I would speak all that negatively about. I’ve been very pleased in my selections thus far. I’m hoping to finish another two or three before this month is out. While I’d tell you to stay tuned here, if you want to really keep up with my book reading, follow me on Instagram: @gcpinder.

Ta-ta for now!

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November 2015

Sound the trumpets! The finish line has been crossed! (Early, might I add.) What a title to wrap up the year with, too. So here we go!

a monster calls patrick ness
A book a friend recommends: A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness
Thank you to everyone on Facebook who submitted recommendations — I’ve made a list of those that I’ll work through eventually. This recommendation comes from a coworker. I admire her strength, her positivity, and joie de vive. Knowing how close-to-home this book is for her, I knew I had to pick this one.

Despite being a beautifully illustrated book, by the truly amazing Jim Kay (most now recognize his name from the new illustrated editions of Harry Potter), the audiobook was the format specifically recommended — and it did not disappoint! Though, I did still page through the book at times, I was grossly immersed in the story, thanks to the narration of Jason Isaacs.

“The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.”

Ness weaves a beautiful and tragic story of a 10 year-old boy losing his mother to cancer. The methods in which the boy deals with his grief, and the stories that are told, feel both nostalgic and heart-wrenching. Applicable to so many things and completely quotable. I don’t often cry at books, but this one had me blubbering a bit in the car before going in to work.

“Stories don’t always have happy endings.”  This stopped him. Because they didn’t, did they? That’s one thing the monster had definitely taught him. Stories were wild, wild animals and went off in directions you couldn’t expect.”

If you speak the truth, the monster whispered in his ear, you will be able to face whatever comes.

This profound book demonstrates such courage and strength… just like my dear friend that suggested it. Read it, listen to it. Watch the movie when it comes out in 2016. Please bring tissues and friend to drive you home.

July 2015

This month I was able to take a big-big chunk out of the challenge list — thank you, summer! — I’ve only got 12 more until I finish the whole list! That’s crazy!!  AND that’s only the challenge books, not even the other books on the side that I’m reading that sadly don’t fit into any of the remaining criteria. That said, this was probably my most enjoyable month so far — I loved all of these books! So here we go!

red queen victoria aveyard
A book written by someone under 30: Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

 

morte mort(e) robert repino
A book with a one-word title: Mort(e), by Robert Repino

 

the awakening kate chopin classic literature
A book with bad reviews: The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

 

gay literature anything could happen ellie goulding will walton lgbt
A book set during Christmas: Anything Could Happen, by Will Walton

 

rainbow rowell fangirl carry on
A book based on a true story: Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

 

anne of green gables l m montgomery canada
A book over 100 years old: Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

 

paige mckenzie sunshine girl haunting youtube
A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, by Paige McKenzie

 

bioshock rapture john shirley
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: Bioshock: Rapture, by John Shirley

If I were to highlight all these books as much as I want, this entry would be a mile long…This time, let’s try something different: 5 words (or less) to describe why I loved each book, so you can skip all the ramblings underneath.

Red Queen — Local debut author hits big!
I remember picking this book up sometime in the fall of last year while it was still an ARC. It was in such a pretty little Velcro case, too! I had to practically pry it from the bookseller’s fingers because she said it was THAT good — then the next day, WHO shows up at the bookstore looking for it, but Victoria Aveyard herself! I had to tweet her out and admit to taking it… Then I had her sign that very copy at her launch event 🙂

Mort(e) — BAD-ASS CAT.
I met Rob at Book Expo America in 2014. It was my first time attending and everything was shiny and new and I was snatching books from all over the place. While things were winding down on a particular day, I was slowed down by a long signing line spilling out into the walkway. This abrupt roadblock awkwardly placed me right in front of the SoHo Press booth. I spotted the nifty cover and so I picked up a copy to read the back — “The author is signing right over here!” said a tall, slim African-American woman. “What’s it about?” I asked. “It’s about a cat and giant ants that want to take over the world… and… well… The author can sign it for you!”  Admittedly, I was apprehensive, but also greedy for a signed book. A very nervous looking Repino was sitting at a table full of his books… I knew I had to say something to break the ice, so I mentioned I was a blogger and I would TOTALLY write a review for his book when I finally got around to reading it. He chuckled a bit and said he appreciated it. WELL, Rob… Here we go!

SURPRISE REVIEW!

Yes, Mort(e) is about a cat and giant ants that want to take over the world… but it’s also a touching story of unrelenting dedication and the bonds of friendship (& love). Told in a refreshing voice, Repino chronicles the life of a house cat and his connection with the dog next door. Yes, a normal, non-talking house cat — at least at first. Down below the Earth’s surface lives a gigantic (gross, grubby) queen ant that has decided to rain Hell down on the humans for stomping on and burning all of her little children. She unleashes a “hormone” into the atmosphere that causes a mutation in the animals on the surface enabling them to walk upright and speak (and fire guns and stuff). Suddenly it’s an all-out war between humans and animals, and the animals are kicking some serious butt. Our hero comes to his self-awareness during a traumatic event between his family and the neighbor, resulting in his dog-friend’s disappearance.
With a little nod here and there to Animal Farm by Orwell, Repino’s engaging Sci-Fi is action-packed and even humorous at times. I may not know a whole lot (nothing) about ants and their biology/chemistry, but if what Repino has written about their ‘colony-mind’ and seemingly immortal/never-ending consciousness is at all true… that’s freaking creepy!  Bonus points for having a remarkably satisfying ending. (AND even MORE points for a sequel in the works!!).

The Awakening
 — Everything deserves a second chance.
This is one of those books I HAD to read in school… which, of course, means that I didn’t. In fact, I got to page 11. At least that’s the conclusion I draw based on the dog-eared page. Now I’m going to say something that I never though I would say, but good literature like this is simply wasted on the young! Why would you ever force a teenager to read a story about a woman who is struggling with the monotony of her marriage and the thrill and infatuation of new love (or is it love??). Teens are trying to work through their first loves and infatuations and unrequited feelings and sexual frustrations. Okay, so some teenagers are certainly more emotionally mature than others, but seriously. Come on english teachers. How can they relate? I’m so thankful that I gave this book a second chance by someone’s glowing recommendation. Hmm… what OTHER books did I “read” in school that I should revisit?

Anything Could Happen
 — I needed this at 14.
I met Will this year at Book Expo America. The ARC of Anything Could Happen somehow ended up on my desk, and I knew from the cover: “Op, this is a gay book. I need to read this… I haven’t read one of these in a while.” I had the intentions of reading it once I finished up with grad school (which maybe tells you how long I had it) — well, meeting Will bumped it up to the top of my list.
When I was young and reading gay literature, I realized it was so much of the same story over and over again… the secrets, the surprise outing, the betrayal and heart ache… and while those all factor into the overall experience of the ‘coming out’ narrative, Will’s book is a much needed upgrade from the traditional. We’re faced with a character in the South, which we can assume is conservative. We’re also presented with a heterosexual love interest that has two dads. The story has some classic elements such as school bullying and unrequited love, but Will wrote a much more realistic take on a young man coming out to himself and his family — and in such an uplifting and positive way, leaving me hopeful and joyously celebrating our protagonist by the end of the last page. Good for you, Will. And good for Tretch — what a cute little bug that boy is 🙂 Thank you for such a beautiful, and current, gay young adult novel.

Fangirl
 — So relevant to college life!
Okay, I’m started to get pretty long-winded now! Time to crank through these next few. Fangirl reminded me of one of my best friends in college. Though, actually, when I recommended she read this book, she said she did and she didn’t like it (whoops)! But that’s okay! It’s not a reflection of my time in college, but it certainly reminded me of my experiences. Few (if any) people know that I was contemplating writing fan fiction in my middle school days after reading some written about Sailor Moon, and OMG, Gundam Wing! In college I began that contemplation again, and while I never put fingers to keys to type anything up, I certainly had a number of stories and slash-fics in my head. So this one was nostalgic in some ways — which always feels warm and fuzzy.

Anne of Green Gables
 — Who knew she was funny?
I CRACKED UP when I listened to this book on double-speed. Anne is such a vibrant character on her own, not to mention an incessant chatterbox, but to have her prattling on at twice the normal talking cadence made it seem like she was all tweaked out on caffeine. Towards the end I picked up to read the book, since I was gifted such a beautiful copy by Aracely’s Books, and I still found some humor in the voice. What a treat!

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
 — Youtube sensation turned book? YES!
In my quest to find “a book that scares me” I’ve turned to a few spooky/creepy books in hopes that SOMETHING jostles me. This will make me sound like a freak, but I love stories and movies and shows about the supernatural and demons and possessions and all that (sorry Mom). I got to meet Paige at Book Expo this year (notice a trend, folks?) and though I knew I recognized her name, I hadn’t yet watched any of the YouTube series this book is based on. She was kind enough to give me not only a copy for my job at the library, but also one for -me- to have, so if course I had to read it! And while the subject matter was spooky and creepy, which I enjoyed… It’s difficult for me to get scared by a book. But I still liked it a lot, and I’m looking forward to book two. Maybe I should start watching the web series too…!

Bioshock: Rapture 
—  40/50’s era underwater dystopia.
So, an interesting take on “somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit” — Since Rapture is a fictional place. I was actually considering reading one of the Oz books, or perhaps The Secret Garden. I really wanted to read a book based in Australia, but since I’m drawing titles from books I already own, I’m fresh out of Outback stories. I was hoping this book might also possibly be a “book that scares me” — especially since the games were so enchanting and terrifying…oh gosh, the music alone! — yet again, I closed the book unafraid and unspooked. I blame it all on reading Stephen King at such a young age. Anyway, all the same — I’ve never read a book based on a video game franchise, and this served as a nice prequel. Actually, it made me want to play the games all over again! (Which reminds me, I still have to play the last one set in the flying city of Columbia…)

If you’re still with me, congratulations! You made it through this super-sized entry! I felt I had to compensate for posting late… even though I’m being slick and backdating to the end of July. See ya next month!

 

June 2015

June, June, June… Yet another month to fly by all too quickly this year. This month was all about trying to catch up with life — to fall back in step with the day-to-day. While I made some progress in the Reading Challenge, I was able to squeeze in a few non-challenge books, too. But first… A whoops from last month:

Last month I had reported only reading one book. Well, I forgot that I read this one… Probably because I didn’t find it memorable.

A mystery or thriller: The Girl on The Train, by Paula Hawkins
A mystery or thriller: The Girl on The Train, by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train has been one of those wildly popular bestsellers that we can’t keep on the shelves in the library. I had this on hold for months… everyone raving about it… That should have been a clue. For anyone that is interested in reading it… just read a Wikipedia or Goodreads summary. That’s all you need.

Challenge Books:

A nonfiction book: The Real Wizard of Oz, by Rebecca Loncraine
A nonfiction book: The Real Wizard of Oz, by Rebecca Loncraine
A book at the bottom of your to-read list: City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare
A book at the bottom of your to-read list: City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare

A quick love & hate story…
Loved the Baum biography! I may actually read it again some time! Since the history classes I took in school never covered a whole lot of American history, I felt like I stumbled upon this little treasure trove of information — who knew most children barely survived infancy?? I didn’t! This is one that I’ll be passing around to a few people for sure.

The City of Ashes on the other hand… So, I was never too keen on the first book… though I was really excited to read the series! In fact I bought the first three books all at once. Then I read the first one… and it took me a really long time… then the movie came out… and that was atrocious… then I met the author… and after I was finished being star struck, I settled on accepting that the books were popular, and that I found them to be ‘okay.’ Not bad. But… okay. I think I dislike the series because it IS so popular and I’m still trying to chase down the bandwagon to hop on. And I’m no good at running. So I’m a bit spiteful, for no good reason other than me being a little pouty brat. Still, got another one crossed off my list!

A few extras:

George, by Alex Gino
George, by Alex Gino
better nate than ever
Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, by Tim Federle

Both of these books made me tear up. Between the nostalgia I have for Charlotte’s Web and remembering what it was like to be a 13/14-year-old boy — these two books hit me in the soft underbelly. Nice job, authors. 🙂

Next up:
Anything Could Happen by Will Walton ❤ It should have made this month, but I got distracted… But more on that later!

Spotlight: Maggie Stiefvater

I don’t often do this. In fact, I never have. But I want to take a moment and talk about an author that I’ve developed quite an appreciation for. This may become a regular thing… like an author spotlight or something… But for now, I’ll just gush about my latest author crush.

Maggie Stiefvater

maggie stiefvater raven boys

Her books preceded her. I heard about “those new werewolf books” (The Wolves of Mercy Falls) several years ago but refused to pay them any attention. In fact, I didn’t even associate her name with the book series because I forced myself to be THAT uninterested. It was probably because I was too turned off of teen paranormal romance at that time. Thanks, Twilight. Then as one of the first choices for a book club that I joined, we were tasked with reading The Raven Boys. I found the audiobook available on Overdrive and started listening.

Loved it. I’ll spare the premise, since I’m focusing on Maggie, here. But it’s awesome. Go read it. In fact, read all of her books. Cuz I pretty much have, now.

Maggie lives in Virginia – SCORE
After I moved away from the Bahamas, I lived at a boarding school in Virginia, went to college in Virginia, and ended up living there almost 10 years. Virginia has always been my home away from home. Maggie has written several of her books set in Virginia. The Raven Boys, specifically, is even about guys in a boarding school. Without needed to say much more, it was so incredibly easy for me to relate.

Maggie is an artist – AWESOME
I’ve always loved art. When I was little, I toted around a stuffed Crayola Bunny that had a pocket in its overalls to hold a few crayons. I was so obsessed with those color names too. In fact, at my primary school, I identified my peers to my parents by what color their skin was by Crayola standards: peach, tan, brown… And I was so confused when people said they were white or black, because THEY DIDN’T MATCH THE CRAYON!  My love for art continued throughout my high school career, expanding my craft into dark room photography, which I ultimately majored in when I went to college.

Maggie is a musician – OMG
For many years I played piano. I really enjoyed it, until I had to start composing my own pieces for these examinations… then I felt burnt out. Though I never practiced at home, my teacher said I showed great talent – and just imagine what I would be like if I DID practice at home! It’s been years since I’ve played, but it’s one of those things I hold dear and have such an appreciation for.

Maggie is a race car enthusiast – SERIOUSLY
Okay, so I don’t have much to say about this point, besides race car being a fun palindrome. But come on, guys… how many people do you know zip around in neat cars with custom license plates (cuz it’s so darn cheap in Virginia!) and graffiti their car in 3.5 minutes?? Seriously, check out the video on her website.

Maggie writes some seriously fantastic books – DONE!
After breezing through The Raven Boys, I decided (with some hesitation) to try out The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy, then Scorpio Races. Most recently, (cuz I have to do all of these in audio now) The Dream Thieves. For a typical contemporary Young Adult author, her stories are remarkably fresh and original. The bits of romance in WoMF were tender, honest and realistic. Scorpio Races was enchanting — come on, a girl enters the ‘wild & crazy water horse’ race to save her struggling family? Who comes up with this stuff? This chick does. Oh, and she also composes and performs the music for the audio books.

Done, done, done! Subscribe me +1000 times! Fav, retweet, blast that out.  Maggie Stiefvater is a rock star. I told her once. She proved it:

twitter maggie stiefvater

Have I said enough? For an author that wasn’t even on my radar, she has sprung up out of nowhere and completely captured me. Like a bear trap, actually. Or a snake with big fangs. But a nice snake. A colorful, cheeky, magical snake. She has sunk her sharp and witty teeth in to my unsuspecting self and pumped in her intelligent prose and beautiful imagery. So read (or listen) to her books. I’m going to pine over her Tarot card illustrations and maybe dance to a tribal summoning song  and hope she comes out to Western Mass one day. Hey, there’s a thought…

 

 

Down With Dystopia: The Rise of the Royal Court

When I tried describing a book to someone last week, I realized that I was mixing up characters and plots, pulling from multiple titles I had recently read. Finally setting aside some time, I decided to look into these books a bit more, and then I fell down a rabbit hole. Suddenly, I’m not seeing dystopian books a-la Hunger Games and Divergent anymore. Now, books about princesses and kingdoms (and magic – ooo!) have taken the floor and are proudly waltzing by.
dystopia royal court princess

Is anyone else noticing this? Does this mark the end of depressing dystopian worlds? Is historical fiction donning a fancy new Y.A. get-up? We still have strong female characters completely dominating young adult literature; however, rather than the run-of-the-mill dystopia once dominating popular books, our heroines are now featured in the high courts of fantasy realms and fairy tale retellings.

I’m not saying this is a problem, but, does my observation carry greater meaning when I point out that many…most… of these books are written by debut authors?  I get that these things come in waves, but this seems more like a tsunami. Below are a number of recent, and soon-to-be books that include some aspect of royal courts:

  1. Red Queen (et al) – Victoria Aveyard
  2. Shadow & Bone (et al) – Leigh Bardugo
  3. Girl of Fire and Thorns (et al) – Rae Carson
  4. Graceling (et al) – Kristin Cashmore
  5. The Selection (et al) – Kiera Cass
  6. The Healer’s Apprentice (et all) – Melanie Dickerson
  7. The Jewel (et al)- Amy Ewing
  8. Deception’s Princess (et al) – Esther M. Friesner
  9. Princess of the Midnight Ball (et al) – Jessica Day George
  10. Seraphina (et al) – Rachel Hartman
  11. Cruel Beauty (et al)- Rosamund Hodge
  12. Princess of Thorns – Stacey Jay
  13. Stolen Songbird (et al)- Danielle L. Jenson
  14. The Queen of the Tearling (et al) – Erika Johansen
  15. Grave Mercy (et al)- Robin LeFevers
  16. Winterspell (et al)- Claire Legrand
  17. Stitching Snow – R. C. Lewis
  18. Throne of Glass (et al)- Sarah J. Maas
  19. Cinder (et al)- Marissa Meyer
  20. Suspicion – Alexandra Monir
  21. Legendary (et al) – L. H. Nicole
  22. Queen of Hearts: The Crown (et al)  – Colleen Oakes
  23. Snow Like Ashes (et al) – Sara Raasch
  24. Camelot Burning (et al)- Kathryn Rose
  25. Legacy (et al) – Jesikah Sundin
  26. Stray (et al) – Elissa Sussman
  27. A Wicked Thing (et al) – Rhiannon Thomas
  28. Crown of Ice (et al) – Vicki L. Weavil
  29. Storm Siren (et al) – Mary Weber
  30. Illusions of Fate (et al)- Kiersten White

That’s well over a two dozen titles, not including the respective continuations and sequels, e-book prequels or e-book short of some kind. (Those marked by ‘et al’ indicate some continuation in their series or intended series.) Of the authors that I’ve pulled into this list, there are only three that do not explicitly note a continuation of story.  I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll see more than just one entry in these remaining three all the same.

So what’s with this sudden spike in popularity? Here are some observations:

Women authors — At least in this genre, it seems as though unless your name is George R.R. Martin, most fantasy books are being written by women. There are a few men that are writing for young adults: John Green, Rick Yancey, Patrick Ness, Scott Westerfeld, Rick Riordan… but they’re not necessarily explicitly ‘fantasy’ authors. Where is the new blood? Where are the male debut authors? And where are the male debut fantasy authors?

Princesses — I don’t think I need to point out the dream every little girl (and some boys!) have of growing up to be a princess. Rags to riches, coming of age, reluctant hero(ine)… and other themes are common in such princess fantasy stories. Also present are kings, queens, princes, duchies, nobility, lords, ladies, and the like. Everyone loves to play dress up. Everyone also loves coming from modest beginnings,  and not necessarily entitled to the fame and fortune, but, of course, deserving. Humble = likable.

Gossip — I really, really don’t want to go there, but there’s also a clear connection between certain elements in this genre (such as spies, assassins, espionage…all of which boil down to gossip, lies, and general underhanded-ness,) that are present in many stories with women characters. Perhaps it’s simply an aspect of the everyday feminine culture that is handled in different ways from book to book, but it is undeniable that gossip is a common thread.

**NOTE: There’s much hesitation, self-awareness, and self-censorship I exercise in writing this entry. I feel like feminist readers of my blog will tear me to pieces… but these aren’t meant to be pokes or jabs at the nature of feminism or female culture. I’m not criticizing these points I bring up, but rather I seek to open a thread of conversation to be had with a purity of motive.**

~    ~   ~

At this year’s Horn Book Awards Colloquium, held at Simmons College (Boston, MA), there was an interesting panel held on the diversity of literature for children and young adults. This was headed by individuals in the publishing world, all of whom claim to scour for talent every day trying to find diverse books to publish. Unfortunately, without the talent… there’s nothing to publish.

So much of this time I had been blaming the publishing world. I’d thought, well, of course they are the reason there is not more diversity in books – because they want to take something popular that makes them money and drill as far down into the well as they can… Further illustrated by my list above. Or is it? Are books like these getting published because that’s just what the writing talent is currently producing? Is it because these books are easily marketable to the established audience? Are there writers out there producing diverse literature and the work is just ‘not good enough’ yet to make it to print? I think it’s unfair to place the blame on any one faction of the book world. Everyone simply has to work harder to produce and promote diverse literature.

My final question is this: Does the list above demonstrate the diversity we are all working so hard for?

A Fever in my Blood

 

Boy, this took me long enough! I finally, finally, got around to reading Rebel Heart by Moira Young, book 2 in the Dustlands trilogy. I happened upon Blood Red Road (book 1) while I was in Canada one summer. Without having heard much about it before, I picked it up, because I couldn’t leave a bookstore empty-handed. Honestly, I didn’t begin reading it until a few months later, but once I did, I flew through the pages. Once I realized there were to be two more books following, I pre-ordered the titles as soon as they became available. That was a few years ago now, and since I loved BRR so much, I wanted to be sure Rebel Heart made it on my list of books to read this year.
Rebel Heart, Blood Red Road, Dustlands, Moira Young

 

The first thing you’ll notice about the Dustlands trilogy is the way it is written. That may sound sort of generic, but flip through the pages and you’ll see there are no quotation marks indicating speech. It is also written in the vernacular of the world. G’s are dropped from words ending with ‘-ing,’ instead of ‘for’ it’s ‘fer,’ rather than ‘afraid’ it’s ‘afeared,’ ‘can’t’ is ‘cain’t,’ etc. Honestly, it felt really odd for the first 40 pages or so, but soon you find yourself in the rhythm and you don’t even notice. Sometimes, the line spacing even makes the prose feel like verse… which may sound weird, but it works!

Moira Young does a marvelous job of supplying the reader with just enough detail. Sort of like a watercolor painting, her words suggest description while leaving us to fill in the specifics with our own imagination. It’s remarkable how liberating that feels… but I didn’t realize it until after I was through reading the book. It’s not like other writers that will ramble for pages about the bark of a tree.

Rebel Heart starts with a shift in perspective – we hear from another character’s point of view. Immediately I thought about Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, wondering if this book would follow the same pattern: book 1, one perspective – book 2, two perspectives – book 3, three perspectives. In this case, the shift serves as a prologue. The book picks up pretty much where the first left off. (I’m purposefully leaving out characters and plot points for spoilers — Yeah, I’m being nice this time. You’re welcome.) Again, it took me a little while to get into the stylized rhythm, but I adjusted. The character names were all familiar, but I had to remind myself who was who from the previous book.

Saba, the protagonist, is the same as she was – stubborn, fierce, and unrelenting. After the events of the first book, it’s rewarding to see her struggle and develop through this next installment. She’s not perfect. Often I feel as though these strong-female-protagonists-in-a-post-apocalyptic-dystopian-world-for-young-adults all start to blend together. Not so with Saba. Her inner conflict is so… I wanna say textured, but that sounds weird… It’s pebbly and rocky, if that makes sense. And a few times, her decisions made me go “what?!” — and THAT’S what makes her such an interesting read. Saba is easily my favorite protagonist in this genre so far.

Oh, and speaking of genre. Something I should mention: this is very much a Western. That may shock you readers, but I urge you to give it a try. There are a lot of John Ford and John Wayne influences… In fact, does anyone remember The Searchers (1956 film)? If you liked that, you’ll definitely like this series. Now that I think about it, I suppose book 1 sort of follows along that same kind of story too.

Hopefully it won’t be another 3 years before I read the final book, Raging Star!