Where You Belong

Veering slightly off the track of my trajectory of books for the year, I couldn’t help but read No Place Like Oz, the prequel e-novella by Danielle Paige, as soon as I caught wind of it. I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure of meeting her and listening to her talk about her (now New York Bestselling) book Dorothy Must Die at my local bookstore, The Odyssey.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of my favorite franchises of all time. I mean favorite. I’m talking: I had a Wizard of Oz birthday cake, y’all. FAV. Over the years, Baum’s books have been adapted countless times, and I would say that this newest addition to the world does not disappoint. Thankfully, I can launch myself directly in to Dorothy Must Die without having to wait. Though I haven’t finished many  of the original Baum books, I have completed the more popular of the stories, which is where Paige’s books draw their inspiration.

“Home isn’t where you’re born — it’s where you belong” 

No  Place Like Oz

 

This prequel brings us back into Dorothy’s life a few months following her return to Kansas. Though she’s been happy to get home after all of her adventures, she has gotten a bit stir-crazy knowing that there’s a whole world out there beyond dusty old farmlands. On her sixteenth birthday she receives a mysterious package containing fancy red heels that end up transporting not just her, but also Uncle Henry and Aunt Em to Oz. Once there, she resolves to never return to Kansas, despite her family’s protests, and to reunite with her old friends. Instead, she ends up spending much of her time at the Emerald City and becomes the acquaintance of the new ruler, Ozma…. And I won’t spoil anything else — but it’s good!

Reading through Paige’s text feels so familiar. Whether it’s the subject of Oz or perhaps her style of writing, I breezed through this novella in just a few hours. One thing I always appreciated about Baum’s original Oz stories is his ability to describe characters and scenarios in such a way that is brief, yet provides just enough detail  to allow your mind to spin these marvelous images. I find Paige achieves this in very much a similar way. Her prose is contemporary, yet not too “current-dated,” by which I mean, it does not fall into today’s vernacular common place in other young adult works. That said, it does still feel very Y.A.. (I’ll have to re-read some of Baum’s books to get a sense of how they match up.)

In this little novella, we see quite a development in the character of Dorothy, from a very familiar “oh-fiddle-dee-dee” corn-fed girl to… well… I won’t ruin it… But trust me on this: it’s worth the read. This, so far, seems like the perfect primer for the full-length Dorothy Must Die, and at a very reasonable $1.99 from Amazon’s Kindle Store, it’s worth the buy. You can bet I’ll be writing about Dorothy Must Die when I finish that, too.

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Special shout out — Hey Ma, if I wasn’t clear in the rest of this entry…

GO READ THIS! 

Sophomore Slump

Picking up Divergent by Veronica Roth well over a year ago was another one of my impulse buys akin to my urge to pick up The Hunger Games. In fact, at the time, many people were touting certain books as “The Hunger Games Hangover Cure” and Divergent was one that satisfied my appetite beautifully. Insurgent, though it picks up immediately where Divergent leaves us, had me wondering when I would feel the same high I felt before.

 Insurgent

Okay, so I don’t dislike Insurgent. In fact, I found it pretty agreeable. There were a few choices that were made that made me question the direction the story is being taken… Such as *SPOILER* killing the major antagonist (yay for the good guys!… but seriously? There’s a whole ‘nother book!) and *ANOTHER SPOILER* a lot of people being divergent besides Tris (So… she’s not really special after all…?). What I did appreciate was a closer look at the inner workings of the other factions. Perhaps that’s really what this entry in the series was about: fleshing out the society a bit more, hinting at what could possibly be going on outside of the city. It seems as though there’s going to be a revolution within the revolution… which reminds me of the Matched trilogy. This entry still felt more like it was bridging a gap.

Throughout this book, I felt like the scenes were sort of cut and paste next to one another. One scene everyone is talking, talking, talking… Then there’s a lot of action and guns and running… Then back to talking and talking etc, etc. I wasn’t as interested in this book as I was when I first read Divergent – I found the world and premise fascinating, with simulations and faction hierarchy. In Insurgent, I felt like some of the rules were bent a bit: “Oh, you don’t remember what happened? It must have been a simulation.” *shrug*

That said, I am still looking forward to finishing up the series with Allegiant. I still enjoy the characters and their tensions/relationships. (BTW, definitely didn’t see the twist with Caleb coming!) It may be a while before I get around to Allegiant, but I have high hopes!

We Have REACHED The End

Nearly three years later, I can finally say I’ve completed Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy. I looked over my review of Crossed, book two from the series, and realized now how brutal I was in critiquing it (I’m sorry!) After finishing this final entry, I now feel more familiar with the author’s tone and have a better understanding and appreciation for the trio.

matched crossed reached ally condie

When I first read Matched, I was coming off of a Hunger Games binge, so my expectations were set for something much more action-packed or thrilling. Matched was more subdued. The premise hooked me right away: soon after their 16th birthday, teenagers of The Society are introduced to their life match in a grand ceremony. They are presented with a data card to take home and review their match’s profile, but once Cassia inserts her data card, she sees the face of a boy who is not the same as the one she was matched with during the ceremony. Was it a glitch in The Society’s perfect system? Cassia finds herself in the middle of secret love triangle and soon discovers that The Society’s cracked facade is starting to crumble. With the help of her two potential matches, Cassia investigates the mystery of The Pilot — a fabled leader meant to head up The Rising and overthrow The Society.

To sum up Crossed, Cassia is wandering around the Grand Canyon with one of her matches (Ky) and a few more teens and discover tubes containing preserved tissue samples from the members of The Society that have all died… presumably to bring the deceased back in the future. We still don’t know who The Pilot is, but it’s got to be one of the three from this love triangle, right?

Reached gives us the collapse of The Society and the takeover of The Rising by the use of a widespread viral plague. Certain members that have been selected by The Rising (since birth) are immune, and therefore unharmed… until someone pops up with a mutated version and then everyone’s at risk. That’s a big “Oops.” Cassia and her two matches are tasked with helping to discover the cure. Ky becomes infected by the mutation, but of course, he survives and is ultimately paired with Cassia.

There were some unexpected curve balls: The Pilot was just a random guy. The Rising was actually created by The Society as a way to feign a rebellion, to gain the community’s trust, and ultimately still be in control of everyone. There was no big blow-out fight for Cassia’s love. In fact, the two boys were stayed friends throughout the entire trilogy… so a bit anticlimactic.

Overall, though, the series has a very steady flow. The first book gave us one point of view, the second book introduced a new point of view, and the third book gave us three. When I first read Crossed, I found this flip-flopping to be a bit forced, but in reading Reached, I found it to be part of a natural progression in the story-telling. Condie’s descriptions of the setting of the story are vivid and beautiful. All of her characters are likable, but I’m not sure if it’s because everyone in The Society is groomed to be regulated and well-balanced, or if there was lack of more interpersonal conflict. I didn’t find myself disliking any of the characters… and I had a difficult time deciding which of the two matches Cassia should ultimately end up with because everyone was so “nice.”

I definitely would not call this the next Hunger Games. But for a strong young female protagonist living in a post-apocalyptic futuristic society in the middle of a love triangle, it fits the bill.

Oh, and a band of Archivists ran a black market of smuggled historical papers, objects, and other such paraphernalia. My future as a librarian is now justified. 

And the award goes to…!

The 2014 ALA Awards were recently announced and I just had to gush a bit. Thanks to my awesome local bookstore, The Odyssey, in South Hadley, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the award winners when they started on their respective tours some months ago.

First, I want to congratulate all of the nominees and other winners — It is no small feat to be recognized for your work!

But this entry is really about those few authors I have a particular fondness for and that I think deserve some extra special mentioning.

Though I never had the chance to meet Rainbow Rowell, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about her, and I was able to get a hold of a special copy of Eleanor & Park…

Eleanor&Park

As some may remember, this was one of my books of choice for my Young Adult Literature class this past semester. In fact, this book was read by more people in my class than any others — and for such a book to get such a buzz going, I think it is definitely one to take note of.

Eleanor & Park received a Michael L. Printz Award Honoree,  as well as the Odyssey Award for outstanding audiobooks for young adults (which I can attest to! It was wonderful!).

~

Next up: Tim Federle. I actually met Tim at an event for the launch of his book Tequila Mockingbird, but then learned of his book Better Nate Than Ever. This book (which is being followed by Five, Six, Seven, Nate!) is waiting for me on my Kindle (though, I’ve secretly read a bit of it already… I haven’t “officially started” yet). Tim is hilarious, not to mention talented. I never thought I would find myself so excited to read a book aimed at pre-teens, yet it sends a powerful message and is wonderfully written. Better Nate Than Ever is the recipient of the Stonewall Book Award Honor for outstanding LGBTQ titles.

~

Speaking of the Stonewall Book Award, there are two more titles that I want to point out! Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills  and Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo were both winners in this category.

Like Rainbow Rowell, I have not met Kristin Cronn-Mills, but Beautiful Music for Ugly Children was one of the required books for my class last semester and I think everyone was so pleasantly surprised by it! Writing a trans character is not only brave, but can be difficult to grant a strong voice. Kristin brought such life and truth to her cast in this book that I couldn’t help but feel connected. A win well deserved!

~

I’ve spoken about how brave, true and powerful these books are, but one that shines through has to be Fat Angie with a big purple heart. e.E. came to The Odyssey on her At Risk Summer Tour and I was lucky enough to have a chat with her after her reading. Instantly I felt connected — and she must have too, because she asked that I tell her to write to her once I finish reading the book to let her know what I thought… As in to her personal email account! That doesn’t happen every day! Little-e-Big-E wrote this book with such honesty and heart that I felt truly inspired. I am so incredibly pleased to hear that Fat Angie also won the Stonewall book Award.

Fat Angie

~

Last, but certainly not least, I want to congratulate Holly Black for winning a Newbery Honor for Doll Bones. I met Holly for the launch of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown at The Odyssey and I was surprised to discover that she almost became a librarian! Though Doll Bones is another book I have yet to read, it goes without saying that Holly deserves the recognition for her marvelous work.

 

Congratulations, again, to all of the nominees and award winners!
Keep writing!

Budding New Books

Here’s the thing: In order to stay relevant, one must stay current. Which means more than writing a blog on a regular basis for my own self-indulgent reasons. It really means staying ahead of the game. So how does one maintain a steady stride with the rest?

ARC stands for Advanced Reader (or Review) Copy, which is a basically an early release of a book used as a promotional sales tool. These are typically distributed to booksellers, libraries and journalists (and bloggers) to review prior to the book’s release to help generate buzz and (ideally) positive feedback. These books are not for resale and therefore must be requested, typically from the publishers themselves. I’ve been given the opportunity to obtain some ARCs from a local bookseller and I’m taking a firm grasp of this fresh bounty.

Up until now, I’ve written here on a monthly basis, but I find myself swiftly moving my way through my list of books from my own personal library. It’s time to take the next step, so I propose to read and review ARCs to post here along with my own entries. The nature of the ARC will require that I keep to a deadline. It’s my hope to have at least bimonthly posts which will keep me writing on a frequent and more regular schedule. Once I get the hang of things, perhaps I’ll reach out to a publisher directly!

Stay tuned, readers! This shall be an interesting year!

In Review

Now that last semester is just a memory and the next looms ahead, I thought I would take some time and reflect on the assigned titles from my Young Adult Literature course. Going in to this class, I never thought it would be possible to read all of the books. 45 books in 13 weeks seemed pretty steep… averaging titles every week! In the past, I’ve considered myself productive if I read three books every three months! 11,080 pages later, I can say that I finished all of them. As I’ve mentioned before, if it wasn’t for audiobooks, I’d probably still be reading. Overdrive Media Console and Audible both have nifty features that allow for much faster playback speed, so that 14 hour audiobook can suddenly be trimmed down to 7 hours!

For those of you thinking: “How in the world could you understand all of that?” It’s just like speed reading. It takes practice, I had to work my way up to 2x speed. Some of the comprehension is lost if you’re not entirely focused on what’s being read to you, but after 4 months, I can’t listen to anything slower because it seems to drag on and on. My comprehension has increased greatly too. Looking back at all of the books I finished from August to December astounds me, not just books from my class, but also titles from my personal library. I’m talking 40+ in addition to the reading list! If I’m able to keep up this rate, perhaps I’ll be able to make a much more significant dent in my shelf in 2014.

So here we go! The class reading list:

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower
2. A Midsummer’s Nightmare
3. Tilt
4. Death Note
5. Black
6. A Child Called It
7. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
8. The Prom Book
9. Pure
10. This is Not a Test
11. What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?
12. The Final Four
13. Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different
14. Caring is Creepy
15. Flowers in the Attic
16. I Hunt Killers
17. Gorgeous
18. My Friend Dahmer
19. Diary of Creepy-ass Dolls
20. Pushing The Limits
21. Lone Wolf
22. Wake
23. Heist Society
24. Juvenile in Justice
25. Something Like Normal
26. Soulless
27. Pretty Girl 13
28. Shadoweyes
29. Drowning Instinct
30. Coldest Winter Ever
31. Lullaby
32. Heist Society: Uncommon Criminals
33. Fat Angie
34. Eleanor & Park
35. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Seven of the titles were either graphic novels or visual books, which I obviously couldn’t get in audio format. 20 of the titles I was able to find in audiobooks, borrowed from Overdrive, the library or Audible.

Pure, Flowers in the Attic, Wake and Lullaby, Soulless, Fat Angie, and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children stood out as some that I greatly enjoyed. In fact, I’m waiting for holds to come in for the remaining two titles after Wake and Lullaby in the Watersong Series, which is about a girl that is tricked into becoming a siren. Pure has two more books following it too, which is right up my post-apocalyptic alley. Fat Angie was adorable — and I got to meet and have a conversation with the author e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, who is awesome, btw. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children was uplifting, despite its bullying theme. And Flowers in the Attic is just such a classic, come on!

I’m really impressed with my ability to get through all these titles. Typically, my mind bucks against assigned readings, but I’m thinking this may be a new chapter in my life. With that in mind, I think it’s time for some changes for this blog. Look forward to the next entry when I decide to blow the dust off and shake things up a bit.

Battle of the Books

People may think my book choosing methods are strange, but honestly, I just find it amusing. Considering my lack of interest in sports, a book bracket may be as close as I get to some type of Fantasy League. Here’s the breakdown:

I chose two books from eight different categories, yielding sixteen titles total. (Well, six. I doubled up on two categories.)

  • Stephen King Classics: Cujo vs Misery
  • Travel: A Year in Provence vs PTown
  • LGBT fiction: Will Grayson, Will Grayson vs The Brothers Bishop / In The Line of Beauty vs Hero
  • YA series (having 3 or more titles): Insurgent vs Rebel Heart / Beautiful Darkness vs Reached
  • Kindle Books (fiction): Ten vs Better Nate Than Ever
  • Fiction: Little Children vs Dogs of Babel

Once selected, I set the titles against one another in their respective categories and flipped some coins and followed the paths of the bracket tree. The resulting list will govern the order of the books I will read over the course of the next year. With my recent acceleration in reading (like reading 35 books in 14 weeks for class) I imagine this will be a breeze. I may push a title to the front of the list as an audiobook becomes available through OverDrive or my library.

  1. Reached
  2. Insurgent
  3. Cujo
  4. Dogs of Babel
  5. Hero
  6. Ten
  7. The Brothers Bishop
  8. A Year in Provence
  9. Rebel Heart
  10. Beautiful Darkness
  11. Will Grayson, Will Grayson
  12. In The Line of Beauty
  13. Misery
  14. Better Nate Than Ever
  15. PTown
  16. Little Children
Battle of the Books
Battle of the Books

Here we go!

Waiting for Spring

For the class I’m taking this semester, I’m required to read some 35 books. Thanks to the library, Overdrive, and Audible, I’ve finished most of them in record time. In between my borrows and holds, I’ve snuck in a few titles from my own list, slowly marking them off too, but I feel as though I’ve hardly made a dent. In fact, after crossing off almost a dozen titles, I uncovered several books that I had yet to catalog, and all my feelings of accomplishment deflated. Then I realized just how many titles from my class I’ve completed. Of the 35, I’ve finished 26 completely with two more titles in progress. Though I can’t claim ownership over most of these titles, I also can’t help but feel as though they should be accounted for in some way. Once the class wraps and the semester is over, I plan on going through many of the titles… ones I liked and ones I didn’t particularly care for. After reading so many, I have lots to say! Thanks to this class, I have a much better sense of what really constitutes a young adult book… And it’s more than just strong-female-characters-in-a-post-apocalyptic-dystopian-world-trilogy.

As for my own personal collection… I continue to plod along. I feel discouraged at times when I look at the three bookshelves bulging with books. I’m very tempted to go through and weed titles out — shocking! — but I’m also having a difficult time choosing which I would part with… at least in any substantial quantities. I could probably come up with a dozen or so, but that number seems so inconsequential.  Each time to try to subtract a title, I justify keeping it, now for the sake of my librarian degree. “Oh, I may need that title for a reference in class one day!” Spring at the latest. That’s when the weeding will happen. If not before… It depends on how awful the winter is.

 

In other news… I received Veronica Roth’s Allegiant a day before the release date! This never happens to me — getting a pre-ordered item before it hits the streets. I always hear about it happening with books and video games, and I’m always jealous…Except I can’t quite enjoy it this time because I haven’t yet read Insurgent! Ugh!  At least I won’t have to interrupt the flow once I start reading them.  Now that I mention it, perhaps I should have another Gauntlet… Look forward to a throw-down in the next entry!

Rules of the Domain

As I approach another anniversary with this blog, I decided to go through and do a bit of housekeeping, both on the site and at home. After packing up my life and moving to a new apartment, many of my books have been scattered throughout my living space without any sense of order or proper placement. Though there may be a box or two of books still taped up, I was able to organize all that had been unpacked.

The end of summer marks the end of sunny vacations and hot, sticky days, but as autumn draws closer, my mourning is cut short. The fall ushers in a new school year. A time when the air is filled with potential. High expectations and a recharged sense of accomplishment. My summer has been far from uneventful — I believe I have read more books this summer than I have in the past several years. The selection was not the most traditional beach reads, but working my way through The Sickness has kept me steadily motivated.

Now that a new semester approaches, I am faced with a staggering mountain of books to read. (I should have known… it’s a young adult literature class!) Thirty-five books in total, to be read over a fourteen week period. “Oh, for sure I already own a good chunk of this reading list,” I thought. But after looking over the selection, I only recognized three titles: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, A Child Called “It”, and Flowers in the Attic. Less than 10% of this list were books I had heard of. I took pause. After a few calculations I looked down at my paper in disbelief.

Total Pages: 11,080

That staggering number has me freaked out. That’s an average of 121 pages every day — I’m lucky if I can read 12 pages a day! I took a moment to consider a few points: I’m starting the reading list early. I do not have to purchase any books. I have at least an hour of listening time for audio books every workday.

“Okay,” I said polishing my glasses, “Let’s do this!”

The last item of business to attend to was my domain. Not my living space, but my web domain. WordPress has been offering that I “Go Premium” ever since I started this blog, and underestimating my early commitment, I put off purchasing the dot-com for my site. Today I decided to make the purchase, solidifying my little blog in the Internet world, only to be sadly disappointed. “Go Premium today – make http://www.booksick.me yours” said WordPress. Wait, “dot-me”? What happened to dot-com? I quickly typed into the navigation bar, hoping my fear isn’t true… but unfortunately, it seems as though someone else has purchased the dot-com domain for booksick. It seems to be some type of search aggregator, but to be honest, I didn’t spend much time on the site, refusing to give the other pages more hits.

After a bit more research, the knife of remorse only dug deeper. The domain was purchased 31 August 2013 09:24:00. Just two days ago. The expiration is 31 August 2014 09:24:00 — and you can bet I have set my calendar. I’m staring down that date, now charged with even more purpose than before. It will be mine.

*  *  *  *

Currently, I’ve finished the two books chosen for Week 1, and I am working on a book from Week 2. I also found a book from Week 4 on OverDrive that I’ve been listening to while I wait for my holds at the library. Though my school books will not be listed within the master list, I will be sure to address them in each entry.

Running on a Hamster Wheel

After picking a book up and being really excited about reading it– IT’S THE BOY VERSION OF HUNGER GAMES!!– I wasn’t completely impressed with The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

Maze Runner

I really struggled getting into this book. As I mentioned, I was looking forward to reading this book because there has been quite a bit of hype surrounding it. Along with so many other popular young adult series, this has also scored a movie deal. (Go figure.) Needless to say, I had high expectations. Some were met, some left my wheels spinning.  (Ha! – running…hamster wheel… spinning… see what I did there?)

We’ve got a teenage boy with amnesia that pops up in a world with bunch of other boys that have amnesia too. I think the author was trying to be clever in the reader’s connection with the protagonist — learning new information as they learned — but instead I found it downright frustrating. I felt as though a lot was deliberately being withheld such as “why do we do this?” or “what is that?” So many characters brushed off the protagonist, and therefore, the reader, which made me feel like the book was telling me “STOP READING ME! LEAVE ME ALONE!”

(Un)Fortunately, I was stuck with it through about 10 hours of plane rides over the last week and decided to plow my way through, breaking this wild horse of a book and beating it into submission. Rather than giving away any real plot points, mostly because I really want other readers to suffer like I did, I’ll just say that by the end of the book, I am intrigued.

Let’s see where the rest of this series goes. For now, I’ll catch my breath from my sprint through this book, stretch for a spell, and perhaps pick up another book with a more moderate pace.