Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wednesday Words: Project for Awesome & World Book Night

Every year on December 17 and 18, the Project for Awesome takes place on YouTube. People create videos supporting their favorite charities to get the word out, and then viewers can play a hand in spreading these great causes and can even have a voice in which organizations may get a little bit of financial help.

How it works: Watch videos tagged "Project for Awesome", "P4A", or something of that nature. Like and comment on YouTube on the videos you like, and if you have Twitter, tweet about it! For every comment made and every tweet including #p4a, 1 penny will be donated to The Foundation to Decrease World Suck (essentially the giant pot from which funds will be divided). If you REALLY like an organization, go to the Project for Awesome website and vote for that video. The top videos that get the most votes will be the organizations that get the money. Pennies aren't the only way money is donated. An Indigogo campaign is currently happening where people can buy perks, or you can just donate to the Foundation (in the US, it's tax deductable!)

Anyway, my video this year is all about World Book Night, an organization which every year on April 23rd organizes thousands of volunteers to give away half a million books FOR FREE. It's an incredible cause and as someone who got to be a Giver this past April, it means a lot to me. So please, watch my video, vote, RT, share links, Tweet, Tumble, all of the things! As of writing this post, my video has 125 views (which in YouTube is peanuts - "successful" channels get hundreds/thousands of views and considering I have 430 subscribers, that means a lot of people aren't watching). Last year my P4A video got 234 videos (still peanuts), so I'm hoping for at least that many again this year. World Book Night is a fantastic cause, so this is me shamelessly begging for a signal boost. They deserve it.

DFTBA! That's "Don't Forget to be Awesome" for you non-Nerdfighters out there :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Running Around in History: Ruby Red

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, translated by Anthea Bell (Precious Stone Trilogy #1)
Henry Holt, 2009

This is one of those great cases when I've had a book around for a while, finally read it, kick myself for not having read it sooner, then am a little bit grateful that I waited because the entire series is out so I can read the whole thing without waiting for releases!

Gwyneth Shepard has always been pretty unremarkable in the eyes of her family. Sure this London teen can see and talk to the occasional ghost, but that's nothing compared to her sophisticated cousin Charlotte who was born with a genetic alteration that means she can travel in time and fulfill a centuries-old prophecy. Except, apparently she wasn't because Gwyneth is the one who finds herself being flung into the past with absolutely no training about what to do or idea what this means. Now Gwen must fill her cousin's shoes on a quest, navigate an old and secretive order, and work with Gideon, another time traveler who is insufferable and insanely handsome.

This book is a great example of modern sci-fi fun. It has a little bit of everything I like. A great central friendship between Gwen and her BFF Lesley. Some fun paranormal aspects with ghosts and of course time travel. A dash of family drama. A swoony and complicated boy in Gideon. A mystery that has been around for hundreds of years. In the wrong hands, this could be an overwhelming and cliche-wrought story, but luckily for readers, Gwen has an attitude that you can't help but root for and Gier has crafted a world that you want to learn more about.

Once I started, I couldn't stop, and I immediately checked out the two sequels Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green so I can finish out the trilogy as soon as possible! Also, major props to translator Anthea Bell. These books were originally written and published in German, and the translation is fantastically done in that nothing feels lost or words misguided. I even hope to someday read this book in the original German (if I can last that long in Duolingo!).

If you're in the mood for a fun series that takes on history with a dash of fantasy/paranormal with a fun protagonist, learn from my mistake and don't let this book sit on your shelf any longer!

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday Words: Slacking

Sorry, Internet! My very late post is a result of getting wrapped up in, what else, a book. Specifically, a series. The Precious Stones Trilogy by Kerstin Gier, to be exact.

I love it when I find series late. Like with this one. The final book just came out last month, I believe. Well, in English anyway. The series was originally written in German. And I love it. I inhaled book one, Ruby Red. I even checked out books 2 and 3 from my library before I finished the first one because I knew this was something I'd want to fly through.

So here's to the series that take us by surprise. Better late than never. :)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Nineties Nostalgia: Attachments

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Dutton, 2011

I was only 12 years old when the world was obsessed with Y2K and what would happen when we rolled over from 1999 to 2000. Social media didn't really exist. Email was barely a thing. Cell phones were starting to become common, but for talking, not texting. It was in many ways a simpler time, and in her debut novel Attachments, Rainbow Rowell made me nostalgic for it in this cute office romance.

Lincoln doesn't really have much of a life. He's in his mid/late 20s, still lives with his mom, and works nights at a company doing IT. But really, his primary task at work is email surveillance, making sure employees are using their work-issued email accounts appropriately. He's supposed to send warnings, and he usually does, except for Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but get wrapped up in their conversations back and forth, their hilarious tales, their highs and lows of their personal lives. He should stop, but once he realizes he's fallen for Beth, how can he? And how could he ever introduce himself to her now?

Rowell took the YA world by storm this year with Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, but after reading so much dystopian YA, I wanted something different, but still wanted a taste of this author everyone's been talking about. Attachments was a perfect choice. Lincoln is a good guy who has found himself in a terribly awkward situation (with really no one to blame but himself), and I found myself rooting for him and cringing at the same time. Meanwhile, Beth and Jennifer's friendship is unlikely and flawed and so natural. I was as invested in their conversations as Lincoln was.

All in all, Attachments is an adult novel with definite young adult appeal that was a cute look at a time not so far past. "Adorable" is a word that comes to mind, secondary characters back up a great and quirky leading cast, and in a time where technology is so prevalent, it was refreshing to step back and see how people are still people behind the screens. If you're looking for a fast and fun story, this is the one for you. I'm even more excited to read Rowell's other works now.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Rainbow Rowell's Website
Rainbow Rowell on Twitter
Rainbow Rowell on Tumblr

Monday, December 2, 2013

The 4th Annual Holiday Readathon!

A few years ago at an Anderson's Bookshop event, I met Liza Wiemer. She was outgoing and awesome and totally didn't care that my little blog here is, well, tiny. Or that I had no idea what I was doing. Or that I still thought an ARC was only a type of boat that carried lots of animals two-by-two. But we got to know each other and she's awesome, and so I'm thrilled to be participating in her 4th Annual Holiday Readathon with a giveaway opportunity.

My prize? I'll talk about (almost) anything you want me to talk about on my YouTube channel! I'll read a book of your choice, ramble on a topic, do a goofy challenge, or just give you a huge shoutout - I'm pretty flexible, and if you win, we'll talk it out to make sure we're on the same page. (Being appropriate, nothing offensive or anything that could get me in trouble/fired/etc. You get the idea.)

So yeah. Yay! If this sounds like something you might be interested in, please fill out the Rafflecopter below and check out all the other amazing participants and mini-challenges/giveaways over at Liza's blog!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Choose Your Fate: Champion

Champion by Marie Lu (Legend #3)
Putnam, 2013

Since this review is about the final book in a series, there may be some spoilers for books 1 and 2 ahead - you have been warned!

It is this reader's opinion that readers who have stuck with June and Day through their many highs and lows in Legend and Prodigy will not be disappointed with this dystopian trilogy's conclusion in Champion.

It looks like peace between the Republic and the Colonies could actually be within reach, but when a plague outbreak hits the Colonies, a revival of an old war seems inevitable. It may be up to the Republic's darlings June and Day to save them all, but it would mean sacrificing even more to a country that has robbed them of so much. Can June unlock the key to her country's defense? Can Day keep what remains of his life safe? Or will the costs for each of them be too high?

When I read Prodigy last year, I complained that I didn't quite understand how all of the pieces of this future society fit together. I was incredibly confused about how the Patriots fit into the picture and what exactly all the fighting was about. It wasn't until I read Champion that I realized the error was my own - I simply read Prodigy too quickly because when I took my time with this final installment, things made much more sense. The Republic and the Colonies were how the US split in two. The Patriots don't have a particular allegiance to either one: their goal is to try to reunite the United States. Realizing that made things so much easier.

This book continues with everything that has made the Legend series so popular before: dynamic dual points of view, plenty of action scenes, some political intrigue and strategizing, swoon-worthy sequences that will pull at your heartstrings and punch you in the gut. All in all, I was so completely satisfied with the conclusion of this series as a reader. Lu makes some bold moves here and I appreciated how they fit in to the conclusion. I wouldn't have made some of these choices myself, but for this story, it worked.

If you've liked the Legend series so far, don't wait to get your hands on this fantastic finale.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Marie Lu's Website
Marie Lu on Twitter

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday Words: Many Thanks

I don't say it nearly as much as I should, but I am very grateful for books and all they have brought me. Maybe I just assumed that it should go without saying, but then again, if we have a voice, we should use it.

I'm grateful for the characters I've encountered, the places I've been, the things I've seen, and no, I'm not actually talking about books. I mean in real life in the book community. I have been so fortunate to meet amazing other bloggers, writers, and authors who are all as enthusiastic and passionate about stories as I am. I've been to many events at bookstores and this year to my first ever conference, and I've seen first hand with my students and in this online community of readers how a book can change a life. They're transformative and it's a kind of magic that I'm embarrassed to say I've gotten used to.

It's certainly worth stopping and appreciating more than just once a year.

So here's to you, the readers, the writers, the authors, the dreamers and the community we have built together. I'm so grateful for you all.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Choose to Read: Allegiant

Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Divergent #3)
Harper Teen, 2013

It should really go without saying considering this is the third book in a trilogy, but there are some spoilers ahead for the first two books. You have been warned!

Now that some time has past, I finally feel ready to write this review. Veronica Roth brings her action-packed dystopian series to an end in Allegiant. Picking up shortly after where the second installment, Insurgent, left off, Tris and everyone in the city must all face difficult choices, the most pressing being if the time really has come to go beyond the fence. Secrets are around every corner, the things that have been accepted for truth so long may be more fiction than fact, and it will take all the bravery, selflessness, intelligence, helpfulness, and honesty Tris can muster to fight for the people and things she loves the most.

To me, this book did a lot of things right. The backstory about why these people have been living with the faction system and why the city is the way it is finally comes out. There is some truly incredible character growth in this book alone, and when you consider some of the people we've gotten to know over the course of the series, many of them have been on a remarkable journey. I thought that having dual narrators in Tris and Tobias/Four was an excellent move as it gave readers a wider look at the world these characters inhabit and showed that it's not just Tris making big choices, but everyone around here also has something on the line.

And for a series built on the questions of what does it mean to be brave and what does it mean to be selfless, the conclusion made the answer clear: more often than not, they mean the same thing.

Was it a big book, literally? Yes. Did I feel like some areas could have been trimmed, that as a reader I was being given more information than I really needed or cared to know? At times - some elements felt a tad clunky or unnecessary, yet I kept turning the page to find out what happened next. While the first book remains my favorite, I applaud Roth for staying true to the ending she always envisioned and the story she always set out to tell.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Veronica Roth's Website
Veronica Roth on Twitter
Veronica Roth on Tumblr

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday Words: Rewind and Reread

There's a line from a song that we used to have to sing when I was in Brownies: "Make new friends, but keep the old." Sure it works on people, but since this is a book blog, let's apply it to reading. In recent years, I've become much more selective when it comes to buying books. Sure I have a handful of authors whose works I will buy pretty much no matter what, but more often these days I'll read a book from the library first and only buy it if I think it's something I'll want to revisit again.

But then time passes and it's easy to get forget about them. Sure they stare at me from my shelves, begging to be curled up with and devoured, but there are also the ARCs for books to come, books I've won or been sent from publishers, books I've been given as gifts. I'll never run out of new things to read, and sometimes I feel like I'm always playing catch-up.

However, this week I've taken a step backwards. The to-read pile stays as big as ever while I'm reimmersing myself in early WWII Germany through the words of Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. I love this book. It haunts me. It's poetic. It's subtle and obvious and powerful and the film version is coming out soon so I want to be fresh on the story. I haven't read this story in years, and I was well overdue for a reread.

Balancing my own authorial aspirations with the tales of others is hard, as is figuring out time to fall in love with some books again. The holidays are coming up and can be hectic (I'm putting it mildly). So even though I'll have some time off work and could use this to make a dent in my reading and writing, I know that for my sanity, it's also a great time to visit old characters and worlds. Let It Snow is at the top of that pile, ready to launch me into the Christmas spirit, along with a book or two that will remind me of summer at a time when outside my car is covered in frost.

So here's to rereading, to rediscovering, to taking in pages you've visited before and maybe learning that even though the story is the same, you have changed. Also, here's a vote for Goodreads making it possible to mark a book as "currently re-reading" - I think that it should totally count towards my yearly reading goal! (Plus, I'd be interested to keep track of how many times in my life I've actually read Pride & Prejudice).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hold on Tight: Racing Savannah

Racing Savannah by Miranda Keannely
Sourcebooks Fire, Expected Release Date: December, 2013

*e-ARC Provided by publisher via NetGalley - Thank You!*

Miranda Keannely returns to the world of Hundred Oaks in her latest novel Racing Savannah, the story of a girl whose big dreams and grounded sense of responsibility are pitted against each other, and the added complication of a boy and his own confusing baggage doesn't exactly help.

Savannah's just moved to Hundred Oaks with her dad and his pregnant girlfriend and needs to navigate her school life, family life, and her future. She's always been good with horses and hopes to continue at the horse farm where they live, but Jack Goodwin, the owner's son, makes things messy. Never mind the fact that he's got a reputation as a bit of a playboy. Savannah has been told that staff is absolutely not to mix with the family. But she does go to to school with him. And she doesn't want to like him, but feelings are there. Is Savannah selfish for disregarding many of the rules when it comes to Jack and her emerging dreams of being a jockey and possibly going to college?

This is the second Keannely novel I've read, and I must say, it did sit better with me than the first. Stealing Parker was an unfortunate trigger for me, but this novel had no such effects. Instead we had a girl, a small town, horses, big dreams, and big choices on the line. I was charmed by the setting and grateful for a more open-minded cast this time.

It was a short and sweet quick break from some of the heavier titles in my reading pile lately, and I'm fine with having read it just once. While the Hundred Oaks books aren't strictly a series, readers highly benefit from reading all of them, and in publication order. There were a few scenes where I could tell characters were there as Easter Eggs, nods to the other books, and had I read them I would have been able to keep track of who they were, but instead my thoughts got a bit tangled. Also, sometimes the pacing was a bit off to me, especially when it came to Savannah and Jack's relationship - it felt rushed at times.

All in all, if you're looking cute contemporary in the world of horse racing, Racing Savannah is worth a trip to your local library. I still have every intention of reading Keannely's debut Catching Jordan and will be keeping this author in mind when browsing the shelves.

Miranda Kenneally's Website
Miranda Kenneally on Twitter

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wednesday Words: Genre Binges

As you'll see in my reviews in the next few weeks, I've been reading a lot of dark books lately. Part of that was due to Halloween and wanting to get in the spirit of the, well, spirits. But mostly it was the result of two series I love, Divergent and Legend, coming to an end. They're dystopian. They're gritty. They're in worlds I don't think I'd ever want to find myself in, thank you very much.

Put that on top of the fact that the film adaptation of Catching Fire is almost here and that is a lot of a very gruesome genre. I love the stories, but as fall turns to winter, I think I may have binged a little bit. Now I want books with warm fuzzies to go along with my hot chocolate or tea. I recently read Rainbow Rowell's Attachments to bring in the cute which was the best sort of remedy.

Dare I say it, I've even been mentally craving books meant for grown ups. It's shocking, I know. I have had an ARC of Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things since ALA this summer that I'm dying to get into, and yesterday the copy of Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding that I was lucky enough to win from LittleBrown (along with a baseball-style shirt that goes with the book and its main character - Go Westish Harpooners!) came in the mail and I can't wait to jump in.

So today I pose a question: do you ever binge on genres, and if so, what do you do if you find yourself overloaded? Also, what are you all reading? I don't care that my to-read shelf on Goodreads already has 165 things on it - I'm always eager for recommendations.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Back With a Vengance: A Darkness Strange and Lovely

A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard (Something Strange and Deadly #2)
HarperTeen, 2013

Due to the fact that this book is the second in a trilogy, I will do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum, but some regarding the first book are unavoidable. You have been warned!

Dennard keeps readers on their toes and in the middle of a lot of action in the second installment of her Something Strange and Deadly trilogy. When we see Eleanor Fitt at the begining of this book, it appears that she is at absolute rock bottom. She has sold almost everything she owns to pay for her mother - who hates her - to get care at an institution. The Spirit-Hunters are an ocean away. She's been outcast by everyone she knows, with no one left who cares about her. Yet it is the violent and horrifying visions that she isn't out of harm's way that make her leave for Paris in an effort to find the Spirit-Hunters and stop the evil Marcus once and for all. But not even battling the Dead could have prepared Eleanor for the choices she must now make.

There is a lot going on in this book, both in terms of action but even more than that in regards to the mythology surrounding Marcus, Eleanor, and her newly realized necromancing abilities. The result of this is a lot of new characters to get to know along with watching Eleanor go from bad to worse. At the end of book one, she awoke a dark magic inside herself, and this book spends a lot of time showing how it tears at her, how what it needs versus what she wants to do are at odds. At times I cringed at her choices, but this tension drove the plot forward and I'm very interested to see how it will be resolved next year.

As Eleanor changes, so do her relationships. Yes, Daniel is back (thank goodness!), but these past few months have taken their toll on an already heartbreaking situation. Eleanor's choices affect not only her relationship with him, but also with the impetuous Jie and Spirit-Hunter leader Joseph. And then there's Oliver, a new addition to the cast whose moral compass doesn't exactly point north and plays by his own rules.

Though at times I was a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of this book and how much was going on, I enjoyed it. If you liked book one, hang on to your seats with this installment. Susan Dennard isn't afraid of exploring the dark side of the City of Light, but readers might be when they're done with this book.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Susan Dennard's Website
Susan Dennard on Twitter

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday Words: Don't Judge a Story by its Ending

All stories should be composed of three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. I say should because sometimes, things fall a little flat. But for the sake of argument, let us assume that if a story is published, these three very basic components have been met.

Now, these parts are not equal. Not even close. In the beginning, there's exposition. The stage is set. The main players are introduced. You get a feel for what's going on. That leads into part two: rising action. Conflict arises. Characters develop. Stakes are raised. Choices are made. All of this builds up to the story's climax. It's the moment we've all been waiting for! The big event! Go big or go home! Only after all of this comes part three, usually shorter and to the point. Here is the falling action and finally, the story's resolution. The dust settles, and here's where we are.

It's all very complex to do at all, and to do it well is truly a gift. All parts are not created equal, yet despite the story math outlined here and every plot structure chart English and Language Arts and Creative Writing teachers have been drawing since the dawn of time, why is it that the part people focus on more than any other always seems to be the end?

I mean, okay, in some ways I get it. Maybe it's because culture has trained us to be like this. Who doesn't love a good old fashioned Happily Ever After when the good guys win, the bad guys lose, justice for all?

But life isn't that way. Sometimes the good guy doesn't get what we all know he deserves. Sometimes the slimeball gets away with his heinous ways. This is the world we live in. Does it suck when these things happen? Of course. Believe me when I say that life teaches me this over and over again. Life isn't fair. It happens. It happens in reality and it happens in books, too.

Some stories quite literally get fairy tale endings. Do I love that? I do. And some stories don't, and while these stories rip our hearts out, make us cry, and leave us feeling like we've been punched in the gut, I think the stories are better because of it, and therefore I am too. I learn from these stories. I learn about the human condition and what it can endure. I learn about the lines we can and cannot cross, but sometimes we must. These stories are the ones that stand out to me.

This is a topic I spend an awful lot of time thinking about. Maybe it's because I work in a high school where I'm constantly surrounded by endings. 

Maybe it's because I'm a writer, wanting to find the endings that do justice to my characters, my beginnings, and my middles. 

It's about doing the story justice, not the story being just.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Summer Swap: Being Sloane Jacobs

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
Delacorte, Expected Release Date: January, 2014

*Electronic ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley - Thank You!**

If I have a soft spot, it's for cute, romantic contemporary stories. I inhale them, but since I've read so many, I'm also particular. There has to be some humor. There has to be some conflict. There has to be something that makes me think. I found all of this in Lauren Morrill's debut novel Meant To Be earlier this year and they're back in her next book Being Sloane Jacobs.

Sloane Emily Jacobs is the daughter of a US Senator and is a former competitive figure skater. Her mother is determined for her daughter to make a comeback, her father is bribing her to keep a secret, and she is sick of being Sloane with pressure coming at her from every single direction. Then there's Sloane Devon Jacobs, a tough hockey player from Philadelphia who can't admit to anyone that she's lost her mojo when it comes to playing, so she masks it by fighting. But it covers so much more than that, like her complicated relationship with her mother and her fears of being stuck in a life she doesn't want. When the two Sloanes literally run into each other in Montreal where they are each supposed to spend their summers on their respective ice, they decide to pull a Parent Trap-esque switch, each believing the other girl's life is easier. As the summer unfolds, though, each girl learns about the type of Sloane she really is, and who she wants to be.

This book is, in a word, cute. It's all kinds of cute and it has a lot of things I love. Canada. Travel. Life-swapping. Girls who learn to let their walls down. HOCKEY. And that's all on top of the fact that there are TWO cute, crush-worthy boys, too. I only have a few criticisms with this novel. One is in terms of details that didn't quite add up to me. For example, the girls switched lives, but not phones, so why at one point does Sloane Devon get a voicemail meant for Sloane Emily? Also, this book has some truly great secondary characters (I particularly loved Sloane Devon's friend from skate camp, Andy), but at the end of the story I felt like they were sort of forgotten. A little more resolution with them and seeing the supporting cast get some more time would have been welcome.

Overall, this book is a great escape to take you out of your own life for a few hours. I finished the whole thing over the course of a few evenings and sneaking pages in during lunch breaks at work. During a particularly stressful time, this was just the kind of book I needed to take my mind off things for a while. I like this book for what it is, and that it doesn't try to be anything else. If you liked Meant to Be or are a fan of Stephanie Perkins-style stories, this one is absolutely worth your time.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Lauren Morrill's Website
Lauren Morrill on Twitter

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday Words: OK to Not NaNo

Friday is November 1st, marking the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The task for participants? Write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel all in 30 days. That's an average of 2000 words a day. Which is about four to five pages because the average double-spaced page holds 400-500 words.

That's a lot of words. Every day. No breaks. No days off. Or if you do take days off, you best be prepared to make up for it later.

Some people live for this. They work better under pressure. They love the thrill of the deadline, the hugeness of the task, of writing with reckless abandon and that since it's just a first draft, there are no rules except to keep on writing!

To me, it's a bit more complicated than that.

For the past two years, I've been a NaNo participant. My first year, I was working full time, in grad school, and over the course of one month, I did get in my 50,000 words. My draft wasn't "complete" until the middle of December somewhere around the 60,000 word mark, but I did it. And I haven't read it since. I tried, believe me, but I couldn't. It was just such a mess. I couldn't figure out what was going on, whatever made me think any of this was a good idea.

But maybe that's just because I had a lot on my plate, right? So last year, I tried again. No more grad school classes or homework, so there was more time in the evenings outside my job. Except I think my efforts went from bad to worse. At one point I decided that dialogue was taking too long and not working so I just didn't have any. So for 200 pages and 50,000 words, it was like a poorly written diary entry. I've never been able to bring myself to try to read that one again.

Part of me wonders if the third time could be the charm. After all, so many authors whose books I love swear by it. Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles, wrote the first draft of her ENTIRE SERIES in one NaNoWriMo - that's a few HUNDRED THOUSAND words. And she was in school and working and saving the planet!

So it could work for me too, right?

Oh, if wishing made it so. For the next month, Twitter will be filled with hashtags about #WordWars or #1k1hr and I will probably not be joining in this time. I've been writing for a long time, seriously for the past few years. After one novel I still believe in, my 2 NaNo tries, half of a third one that's on hiatus, and a new project I'm about to hit the ground running with, I know what works for me, and it's not NaNo. Not that much pressure to do so much so fast that I can't leave room for worrying if it's being done well. Not feeling sick on the way to Thanksgiving dinner, guilty because I didn't get my words in for the day. NaNo's for some, but don't feel bad if it's not for you. For me, November means my new project. My goal is to write every day, but maybe not 2000 words. Maybe some days I'll be that lucky. On others, I might consider a few complete sentences a win.

Moral of this post? Do what's right for you and your story. For those participating in NaNo, I wish you the best of luck in your quest. And for the rest of us, good luck to you too. =)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Family and Futures: The Chaos of Stars

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White
Harper Teen, 2013

*ARC won from author in a giveaway - thank you so much, Kiersten!*

I love it when I read books that don't remind me of anything else I've ever read, even of other books by the same author. Nothing could be truer of my experience reading The Chaos of Stars - while I read her first book Paranormalcy and given the premise of this story I felt some Percy Jackson-esque flavors, this novel did a lot of things right in my mind and stands apart from other books I've read lately.

Isadora is the daughter of two ancient Egyptian gods and is convinced her parents don't actually care about her. If they really did, why won't they make her immortal instead of being totally content with letting her die someday? Then when her mom, Isis, gets pregnant, it feels like Isadora is officially being replaced, not good enough, unwanted. Timing couldn't be better that Isis has dreams that Isadora is somehow in danger and decides to send the 16 year old to San Diego to stay with her brother. Isadora is determined to soak in as much as possible about the modern world and leave her ancient, crazy family behind, but if if Isadora can't learn to embrace her heritage and family, she might not have a future.

There have been some mixed reviews on this book so far, but personally I really thought it was fantastic. I wasn't so sure about the structure of the story, snippets of mythology, and Isadora's occasional dreams at first, but it grew on me a bit with time. White does a fantastic job of having a protagonist who isn't necessarily terribly likable (at least at the beginning). Contrary to popular belief, a story can still be great even if the protagonist is a bit of a jerk, or in Isadora's case, a little closed-minded. She's so consumed by being angry at her parents, especially her mom, that she hardly leaves room for anything else. But in time, she does grow, and I particularly enjoyed how Sirius, Isadora's older brother whom she is staying with, serves as an example of how relationships are what you make of them and it's a matter of perspective. Isadora has a bit of an edge to her, she resists attachments and love, but her walls come down as she grows. The supporting cast and the friends she makes provided some comic relief and cause for hope. I loved the character of Ry and how his own particular story surprised me, and he was a great match for Isadora's personality.

In an interview she did with another author I love, Stephanie Perkins, White said that this book actually says a lot about her relationship with God and I think that going into this book knowing that actually made me like it more. This whole novel can be seen as a beautiful allegory if you so choose, or you can take it as it is on the surface as a tale of teens and their parents. Either way, if you stick with this story and give it an honest chance with an open mind, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by what's in store.

Thanks again so much to Kiersten for sending this ARC my way, and thanks for a beautiful story that truly pulled at my heartstrings.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Kiersten White's Website
Kiersten White on Twitter

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesday Words: First Thoughts on Emma Approved

"Read it first!" we so often cry. "The book is always better than the movie!" Yet there have been times in encountering adaptations in which I'm equally impressed with this new form of a story and love it in its own way for different reasons. One such example is the Emmy award winning The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. And that's a big compliment from me considering that Austen is one of my favorite authors and P&P is one of my favorite novels.

And now the team at Pemberley Digital is at it again, this time trying their hand at another Austen novel, Emma. The series Emma Approved is now five episodes in, and so I feel like I've had enough time to form an initial opinion.

Emma Woodhouse's story is a tricky one in that she's not always very likable. In fact, Austen herself didn't even particularly care for her that much. She's rich, she has influence, and while her intentions are good and it's awesome to see a young woman in an admired position, she can also be pushy, ambitious, and doesn't always realize the effect she has on others, be it positive or negative. Basically, Emma meddles and you don't always like her, but you don't want to see her fail. You just want her to learn a lesson and grow.

So far in Emma Approved, I find myself wondering what it is this Emma really cares about. In the 2009 BBC miniseries - one of my favorite adaptations - it was clear to viewers that Emma did genuinely care about others, even if she got wrapped up in drama of her own creation from time to time. Same with Cher in the 1990s reimagining of the story, Clueless. But so far in Emma Approved, this Emma seems to care more about credit. After all, she's recording these videos to document her greatness for when she someday wins a lifetime achievement award. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

Lead actress Joanna Sotomura has captured the bolder aspects of the character perfectly. She has a flair for the dramatic. She knows what she wants and believes that she absolutely knows what's best. She's poised and polished, and I must say that Sotomura is charming and quick-witted. She comes into this project completely confident and owns all that is Emma: the good, the bad, and all the potential for messy in between. I'm very interested in seeing how she continues to breathe life into this quirky and complicated character.

Other casting has been equally fantastic. Mr. George Knightly is now Alex Knightley, Emma's business partner portrayed by Brent Bailey. Let me just say, this was a fantastic choice. Mr. Knightley is an Austen man I particularly love and so far I adore Bailey's portrayal of a man who is smart, level-headed, and serious but also has a great sense of humor. (Again, I shouldn't compare, but it's reminiscent of Paul Rudd's take on Knightley in Clueless.) I'm also a big fan of making Harriet Smith Emma's personal assistant, as portrayed by Dayenne Hutton - she's exactly how I imagined her, and they made her character a library science student to boot!

It's hard not to compare Emma Approved to The LBD. Lizzie's was a perfect kind of magic and I think one of the biggest reasons for its success is that she felt like an every girl, sitting in her childhood bedroom, hounded by parents and sisters, talking to a camera. If she could do it, so can we. Emma's position is less common - she wears $200 blouses, for instance - so we look for other ways to connect. All in all, I have nothing but faith in this new series and I think it's off to a good start. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how exactly this all plays out.

Link to Emma Approved, Episode 1

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Final Chapter: United We Spy

United We Spy by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls #6)
Scholastic, 2013

It's hard to believe that all these years later, readers' first introduction to the world of The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Women was with little Cammie Morgan wondering if it was possible to be a spy and have a boyfriend. A lot has changed in Cammie over the course of this series and in its finale United We Spy, these Gallagher Girls are all grown up and the stakes are higher than ever.

With the Circle of Cavan seemingly unstoppable, Cammie and crew are determined to put an end to them once and for all. Unfortunately, the girls are stuck in the awkward in-between: not technically full-fledged spies yet, but in a few short months they will be. Is it time to take charge of their own lives, make their own choices, make their own rules to save the people they love? Or after all this time, after all these years of preparation, is this even really the life they want if they even live to see graduation?

United We Spy is a worthy ending to a series I quickly came to love. All of Carter's markers are here: action, intrigue, missteps and misdirection, romance, moments of weakness and rallying incredible strength, and for the most part, answers (well, as many answers as she can give - they are spies after all). Here we have smart teenagers in an environment where that's something to be celebrated. Do they always make the right choices? Of course not - hijinks and chaos are always around the corner, but I still find these characters to be admirable. Over the course of six novels, they have shown incredible growth that any person who has ever felt powerless but dreamt of more can identify with.

Overall, while there were a few ways in which I would have liked a bit more. More insight into the paths that some of the characters will now follow. More reflection on what those paths and choices mean as far as their futures and friendships. But really, I just wanted more time to say goodbye. If you have been a fan of the Gallagher Girls, I think you will find United We Spy to be a mostly satisfying conclusion to this great series. And while it's hard to say goodbye, remember that we still have the Heist Society and upcoming Embassy Row series from Carter to look forward to!

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday Words: The Top 3 Tag

So Nat, this crazy awesome Canadian booktuber is one of the few people who apparently watches my videos on a regular basis. As such, she keeps tagging me to do all the fun tags, including the one she developed herself! It's called the Top 3 Tag and how it works is for various categories, you come up with your top 3 favorite/least favorite things. It was fun to make and I hope you enjoy it and take part too, either on video or in a written post!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Salt and Secrets: Unbreakable

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia (The Legion #1)
LB Teen, 2013

*ARC Provided by the publisher at ALA 2013 - Thank You!*

Demon hunting meets The DaVinci Code in Unbreakable, the first book in The Legion series and first solo effort by Kami Garcia, co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series.

Kennedy loves her life in Washington DC, but everything changes the night she comes home to find her mother dead. Since her father left long ago, Kennedy prepares to move a boarding school in New York until a spirit tries to kill her in her childhood home the night before she's supposed to leave. Thankfully identical twins Jared and Lukas destroy it before it's too late and expose Kennedy to the truth: they believe that Kennedy's mother was a member of The Legion, an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from an evil demon, and now it is time for her to take her mom's place. What unfolds is a quest for a long missing weapon and an answer to seemingly impossible questions.

Garcia's novel hits the ground running and gives readers a little bit of everything: supernatural spirits, secret societies, action and adventure, and romance that comes in the form of a possible love triangle between a girl and identical twin brothers. Whew! At times it felt like a lot, and at other times the pacing was actually a bit stalled. It's a lot to be happening in a story that takes place over a very short period of time, the bulk of it spanning the course of a week, possibly less.

While this reads very much as a First Book in a Series story and that can be a bit tedious with so much setup required, I still liked it for the most part. Alara and Priest, the two other members of The Legion, were each well rounded and I was especially jealous of Priest's innovations and inventions. For people who like fast paced stories with plenty of paranormal intrigue who are also fans of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments, they will probably be find a lot to love in this book. It could have just been the mood I was in when I read this, but to me this was a 'I'll check it out from the library' story rather than one I'll purchase - I'm interested enough that I'll check the sequel out in a year to see what happens next.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Kami Garcia's Website
Kami Garcia on Twitter

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wednesday Words: Saying Goodbye to a Series

Goodbyes are complicated things. Sometimes they're welcome, propelled by a feeling of 'good riddance!' But other times, the word can be torture on the tongue. It can be painful to say farewell to places and people that have made an impression on the heart, mind, body, and soul that will not quickly fade. And despite what critics may say, fictional characters can be just as hard to say goodbye to as people.

Buying Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Midnight, June 21, 2007
Sure it happens every time I finish a stand-alone book, but when it happens with a series, it's different. These are characters and places with whom multiple novels and years have been invested. My first major experience with this was with Harry Potter. For the better part of a decade (not to mention my entire adolescence), I would wait for the next book. I would religiously read the CBBC Newsround Fan Boards and post theories of my own. I would read and reread the previous books in the weeks before the next one came out. But then on June 21, 2007, it was goodbye. Not a see you later, but a farewell. It was the last time me and my friends would be in a bookstore at midnight for Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We all knew that within the next 24 hours, most of our burning questions would finally be answered.

And then what?

It may be cliche, but I say focus on the things that got you and those characters here. Recently, I finished United We Spy, the final installment of Ally Carter's powerhouse Gallagher Girls series. While I was late to the party with these books, I quickly fell in love with these teenage spies and the growth of their characters. It was hard to believe finishing book six with its high stakes that the saga started with a sophomore girl wondering if it was possible to be a spy and have a boyfriend. Oh how the times change. Those Harry Potter-esque feelings quickly came back to me, of sadness but mostly gratitude. For Ally Carter taking me on an incredible journey in an amazing world and with characters I am proud to introduce other readers, saying "these are girls you should look up to." For the other Gallagher Girls out there, fans like me united by this series as a community of readers. For the people who felt something just like I did.

Saying goodbye to a series you love can be hard, and that last book especially can be under a lot of pressure. But even if the ending is not exactly what you thought it would be, always remember how you might be different if these books hadn't been a part of your life in the first place. And remember, the story might be over but they're never really gone, not as long as we have our bookshelves and libraries around. =)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Reality Check: Reality Boy

Reality Boy by A.S. King
LB Teen, Expected Release Date: October 22, 2013

*ARC Provided by publisher, requested at ALA 2013 - Thank You!*

I'm captivated by stories, be them in books, in movies, or on TV. But one genre of the television world that I've never been able to get into is reality TV. Despite its name, it always seems so completely inauthentic to me. So when I found out that A.S. King was exploring that very idea and world in Reality Boy, of course I had to read it.

Gerald Faust was five years old when he became famous. That was when his mom invited a TV crew into their home and he became known as The Crapper - the angry and terrible little boy who pooped in random places to get attention, at least that's how the show made it look. Now 17, he's still filled with a violent rage that consumes him and has shaped his life. Despite how hard he works, it's like everyone is still watching him, waiting for him to really go over the edge, and he's getting dangerously close to it.

King has a knack for writing the stories that people need to read and hear, but most people are probably uncomfortable talking about, and this novel is no exception. Gerald is a fantastic character in that he holds nothing back except for his temper, which despite his track record he really is trying to work on. This story unfolds with great pacing, alternating between present day Gerald and the multiple times TV crews came into his house. It didn't take long for Gerald to win me over as an obvious victim of other people's greed, terror, and fear. His sister Tasha is horrifying from the start, and by the end I was terrified. I loved the relationship Gerald had with his other sister Lisi and would have liked to see more of it, but if you read the book you'll understand why that isn't possible. And while Gerald himself scared the crap out of me sometimes with his violent outbursts and while he isn't always the most likable guy, he has amazing growth in trying to fit the pieces of his life together with people who actually care about him, which is a message everyone should hear.

Another part of this story that I also want to applaud King on his her positive portrayal of special education in schools, both in terms of the students in these classes as well as the teachers who dedicate their professional lives to it. Some of my dearest friends are SPED teachers and as a librarian in a high school, I work with students in SPED all the time, and it was great to see this part of schools and life that people often feel awkward or uncomfortable talking about pictured so well.

If you are looking for a story that rips reality TV apart, examines anger, family dynamics, and relationships, and packs a punch, check out Reality Boy. This novel has grit (not to mention swearing, situations, and violence that some readers and parents might not be the most comfortable with) so while I probably wouldn't recommend it to younger YA readers, I can't wait to see it in the hands of my high school students.

Comments welcome, and as always, happy reading!

A.S. King's Website
A.S. King's Blog
A.S. King on Twitter

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wednesday Words: 2 Year Blogoversary!

While I had an entirely different post all ready to go today, I'm instead winging this because according to my calendar, today is The Fuma Files' 2-year blogoversary! Woot woot!

To say I'm unprepared is an understatement, but then again it's comforting. The blog has become such a regular part of my life that it goes without saying. It's still not the biggest one out there, nor the most widely read, but it's still allowed me to connect with other great readers and bloggers, and this whole book blog/book tube community has opened me up to some truly fantastic titles over the past few years. And to think that I didn't even know any of it existed when I started. Seriously, I had no clue. I just had fun writing book reviews for a graduate school class and thought it would be fun to keep up with it and put them online for the benefit of others. Imagine my shock when I found out that this was something people had been doing for years and that there was this whole world outside of just literature majors and librarians who were just as enthusiastic about books as I am.

Like I said, this blogoversary took me by surprise, so I don't have an epic giveaway planned or anything at the moment. Life in the real world has been a bit of a whirlwind as of late, so I'm hoping I'll have something truly excellent for you all in the not-too-distant future. I know it's been a while since I've given anything away, but this is certainly a worthy reason to.

So thanks for two great years and sticking with me, comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A New Voice: All The Truth That's In Me

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
Viking Juvinille, 2013

*e-ARC provided by publishing company via NetGalley - Thank You!*

Four years ago, Judith and her best friend went missing from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith came back with half her tongue cut out. In the time since her return, she's been shunned by her mother and is mostly ignored by the town, but when events unfold Judith must make a choice: she can continue to live like a ghost among the living or she can reclaim her place, her voice, and finally reveal the truth she's been carrying around for so long.

Berry's novel is unlike any book I've encountered before. In the most obvious way, it's told in 2nd person, as readers quickly learn these diary entries/letters are being addressed not to the reader necessarily, but to Lucas, the boy that Judith has been in love with her entire life. It took a while to get used to, but after a while it became less jarring. It's also a sparse novel when it comes to its style and prose - entries are often short, sometimes only a paragraph or two, sometimes flashbacks - yet they carry with them incredible weight and paint a strong picture. Berry doesn't say some things outright - I got the very strong impression that Judith was growing up in Puritan New England, but that is never explicitly stated. Also, the men of Roswell Station go to battle, but I wasn't quite sure against who or why. Perhaps I was reading so quickly - despite some of my misunderstandings, I was very easily caught up in this story - that I missed some of these details along the way. If you are a fan of novels in verse, you will probably find this style to your liking.

This novel is a gentle blending of genres in a way. It's part historical, part mystery as readers don't discover what Judith knows for a while. If you stick with it, you may be surprised as I was. I know the truth wasn't what I was expecting.

In short, I was intrigued by this book, but it was a one-time read for me. It was interesting to see a story told in such a different way, and I appreciate the courage it took to make that stylistic choice.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Julie Berry's Website
Julie Berry on Twitter

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday Words: Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week is in full swing, starting on September 22nd and lasting until the 28th. What is this week all about? It's a celebration of the freedom to read, to have texts and materials from a variety of viewpoints and genres available for people so they can make the choice for themselves if they want to read them or not rather than those materials being restricted and having that option taken away. And of course when you're talking about challenging or removing books, things can get a little heated.

Last week, I set up a display in the school library where I work. At the same time, I also put together a graphic of some book covers of commonly challenged books along with a few quotes from actual challenges people filed against these titles. I put it on my personal Tumblr account, hoping other people might find it interesting or useful and didn't really think too much of it because not much of what I put online gets a whole lot of notice, usually. You can see it here.

So imagine my shock when at the time of writing this post, that graphic had over 28,000 notes on Tumblr. On the one hand, I'm so excited to see so many people responding to Banned Books Week and my work, but I'll admit that some of the many, many comments people have had on it do make me pause.

Especially among teens, I find Banned Books Week to be a great celebration. They're at an age where they like being able to finally make choices, and the books you choose to read at that age can potentially shape the rest of your life. Also, what better way to get people to read something than to tell them "someone out there doesn't want you to read this. In fact they think that so much, they wish we didn't even have it in the library for you." The books fly off the shelf, and suddenly there's a new appreciation for the titles on the list that are also required reading in English classes.

What Banned Books Week is NOT about, though, is anger. It's not about calling other people ignorant or stupid or wrong. It's okay to not love every book on this extensive list, nor should people feel compelled to read all of them because they believe in the right to choose. You can choose to read it, but you can also choose not to. And that's okay. Read what's right for you. What Banned Books Week is about is having materials available so your book, whatever it may be, will be there for you. Most people who challenge books do have good intentions, but so do the librarians who insist on keeping materials.

So here's to celebrating fREADom and may your week be an educational one! Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bucket Lists and Big Attitudes: Goodbye, Rebel Blue

Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell
Amulet, Expected Release Date: October 1, 2013

*ARC provided by NetGalley - Thank you!*

Rebecca "Rebel" Blue has never fit in and has always had trouble with the rules. She does what she wants and because she believes she is in control of her own life. Blue believes this so much that she even takes on a crazy task and seeks to complete the bucket list of a recently deceased classmate just to show that her life is determined by choice, not chance. What Blue doesn't expect is for how these choices and each item on the list changes how she sees the world, what she believes about people, and how she fits into a much bigger picture.

Goodbye, Rebel Blue is one of those cases where I had no idea what I was getting into, but I'm so happy to have given this story a shot. Rebel is confident in who she is and what she wants. On the outside, it looks like she invites being ostracized and prefers being alone. And maybe she does, but not for the reasons she or other people think. As the novel progresses, readers are learning about Rebel at the same time that she's learning new things about herself. What starts out as a way to honor a dead girl she only knew in life for two hours in detention becomes a gritty journey where her biggest enemy is herself. She tells it like she thinks it is, and I admired that (while simultaneously cringing some times, but that's the point!) She considers huge questions, she feels deeply, and she has incredible growth as a character. She's not always likable, she's rarely the nicest person, but I was rooting for her nonetheless. There's a little Rebel in all of us, that part of our soul we wish we could let out, take the filter off, and burst forth. She's 'barefoot in a world that wears shoes' and you don't need to have blue hair like she does to know what that feels like. I could identify with her almost every step of the way and I'm 'old enough' to know better.

The bucket list forces Rebel to interact with all different kinds of people, and these characters are all just as interesting, scared, twisted, troubled, and wanting as much as she is, each in their own way. Rebel's detention buddy-turned-unlikely-friend Macey was a particular favorite of mine. She and Rebel couldn't be more different, but their struggles make them a great pair. Nick, the good boy Rebel also forms a friendship (and more) with is her polar opposite, and they widen each other's worlds in great and scary ways. The novel is well balanced in terms of Rebel's time: the amount of time spent with family vs. at school vs. extra curriculars and how it feels like she's always being pulled in a million different directions was realistic and reminded me a lot of my high school experience.

All in all, I couldn't be happier that I've read this book. I actually can't wait for it to come out so I can order it for my school and share it with my students. If you liked Thirteen Reasons Why or are looking for a contemporary story that's got salt in the wound but still has hope, Goodbye, Rebel Blue is a perfect choice.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Shelley Coriell's Website
Shelley Coriell on Twitter

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday Words: The Your Life in Books Tag

My world as a booktuber continues to expand via the world of video tags. Here's another one in which I share a little bit about my life via the books on my shelves.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Knowledge and Nightmares: The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle #2)
Scholastic, Expected Release Date: September 17, 2013

*ARC provided by the publisher at ALA - Thank You!*

If you thought that Maggie Stiefvater pulled out all the stops in The Raven Boys last year, hang on to your hats. You ain't seen nothing yet - just wait until you take on The Dream Thieves, book two in planned four book series The Raven Cycle. I'll try to keep Raven Boys spoilers to a minimum, but you have been warned!

This book picks up right where readers left off as the hunt for long-dead Welsh king Glendower continues, but the stakes have been raised now that a dark secret has been revealed. While The Raven Boys spends a lot of time focusing especially on Blue and the psychic women that make up her household, then The Dream Thieves is Ronan Lynch's book. Readers learn about his past, his family, the nightmares that plague him, and the truth about how he plays a much bigger role in finding Glendower than just being Gansey's friend.

Everyone is going through changes in this installment, and no one is safe. I loved seeing how the relationships between Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah continue to evolve from the first book, and new characters come into play as well. Readers are introduced to Joseph Kavinsky - another Aglionby boy who makes Ronan's brand of dangerous look downright tame - and the Gray Man - a mysterious fellow looking for the Lynch brothers.

Stiefvater's writing style is an acquired taste that isn't for everyone. I'm not sure if I would have read it when I was younger, but the books of hers that I've read so far seem to suit me now. It's often dark and eerie, and her talent for imagery blows me away page after page. She toys with your emotions as often as possible, so much so that by the end of this book I was at a total loss for words. Every voice is distinct, every scene counts, and every single word matters in putting together this story. Weird is wonderful in this case. I had to take my time reading this book (I made the mistake of rushing with book one and ended up confused) and as a result, I was fully able to appreciate this fantastical world Stiefvater is bringing to life.

Also, thanks to this book, this happened:

So if you are in the mood for a fantasy that blends history, the supernatural, the unexplainable, fast cars, Latin, psychics, new loves, lost loves, kisses, almost kisses, nightmares and new wonders, then The Dream Thieves is absolutely the book for you. Stiefvater pushes imagination and this cast to the brink, then goes over the edge in a spectacular fashion.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Maggie Stiefvater's Website
Maggie Stiefvater on Twitter
Maggie Stiefvater on Tumblr

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday Words: 12 Septembers

I don't remember what I ate for dinner last night. I couldn't tell you what I did after work on Monday without really sitting and thinking about it for a minute. It would probably take me a while to name the last five books I've read, too (but more because I read a lot). But I can tell you as clear as day that 12 years ago, I was wearing blue jeans with a new shirt my aunt had just gotten for me for my 13th birthday which I thought looked especially great with my new short haircut. I was getting my clarinet out of my pint-sized locker for 3rd period 8th grade band when a guy in my class said that someone was attacking the World Trade Center and we said that was a really sick twisted kind of joke to say. But then instead of going to band, I was ushered into Mrs. Arnold's classroom where I wasn't supposed to be until 4th period for Algebra. We were there because the news was on and a building was burning and we watched a plane fly into the second tower.

Twelve Septembers later, the world is a drastically different place, yet a lot is still the same. Today I woke up and went to school, only I'm not the student anymore. I sat at my desk and wrestled my long hair into a bun and got to the business of helping my students find books to fall in love with. I watched the images from my youth on the news in passing online and on TV, and us adults of the building were all measurably less jovial than usual. Meanwhile, the students who were all very quiet and respectful during the national moment of silence, had no memories to ponder - most of them were toddlers or infants on that day. Their afternoon and mine consisted of figuring out how to make a TARDIS out of cardboard boxes as part of their homecoming decorations.

I think now about all the hundreds of books I've read in the past 12 years, how those stories and the events of September 11, 2001 have changed me and my way of looking at the world. Times that the leaves have turned, fallen, and come again. And while it's easy to get caught up with the stories we haven't read or written yet, I think it's important to look back at history, full of its truths far stranger, sadder, and more impossible than the wildest fictions, and remember.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Horrors of History: Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Disney-Hyperion, Expected Release Date: September 10, 2013

*ARC provided by the publisher at ALA - Thank You!*

The saying goes that truth is often stranger than fiction, but in her most recent novel - a companion to her award winning, New York Times best-selling Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein's piece of fiction gives insight to the horrors of modern history in Rose Under Fire.

Told through journal entries, letters, and poems, this book shares the story of Rose Justice, an American girl who finished high school early so she could come to England and help with the war effort by flying planes, delivering them for the ATA (Air Transport Auxilary). She dreams of doing more and wants to be a fighter pilot, but what she wants changes quickly when she is captured by the Nazis and sent to the notorious women's concentration camp, Ravensbrück. Rose sees true bravery and finds friendship among her fellow prisoners, but how can that be enough to endure this nightmare she's trapped in?

While World War II is probably one of the most popular time periods that gets explored in historical fiction, I've never seen it looked at through this particular lens. When people think of concentration camps, of course it is right to think of the thousands of victims of genocide and the Holocaust, Rose is classified as a political prisoner. Wein has clearly done her homework with this story - the details were gruesome and left little to the imagination when showcasing extreme starvation, uninhabitable living conditions, and disgusting medical experimentation just to name a few. But Rose doesn't hide, mostly because there's nowhere to hide, but also because there is a drive in her that never felt corny or disingenuous. She felt real. She felt raw. I clutched my stomach and forced myself to keep reading because she had to keep going, too. The inclusion of facts was seamlessly woven into the fiction so it never reads like a history book but instead feels like looking in a window.

To the horror of many I know in the book/library/reading/writing world, I haven't read Code Name Verity yet. I was assured by the publisher when I got this at ALA 2013 that these are companion novels, not sequels, and since they can stand on their own, readers don't have to worry about reading them in the order they were published. You can be assured, however, that I will absolutely be revisiting Wein's extraordinary writing in Verity. If you are looking for a book that is a heartbreakingly honest look at WWII or historical fiction that sticks to reality - no over the top romances or any elements of the paranormal here - then pick up this book as soon as you can. For men and women, high schoolers and up, this is a book that demands your full attention and deserves every second of it.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Elizabeth Wein's Website
Elizabeth Wein on Twitter

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wednesday Words: Book Shuffle

I was recently tagged for the first time on YouTube! Nat over at the channel PickleHeartsBooks picked me to do the Book Shuffle Tag. How it works is you put your music on shuffle and for the first five songs that come up, you have to think of books that go with them. Check out what I picked!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Museums and Mysteries: Starry Nights

Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney
Bloomsbury, Expected Release Date: September 3, 2013

*ARC provided by the publisher at ALA - Thank You!*

Daisy Whitney tries her hand at magical realism in her fourth novel, Starry Nights.

Meet Julien, a Parisian teen who spends his days giving tours at the Musee d'Orsay. He loves art - always has - and his life changes when the subjects of the paintings start to leave their canvases and come to life at night. With the help of some friends old and new, Julien discovers the art is reacting to Clio, a real girl who Renoir cursed and trapped in a painting. As Julien and Clio fall in love while the famous paintings of the world start to fade, the young pair must choose between the greatest loves of their life: the art, or each other?

The strongest point of this novel was the descriptions of the art and art history. As someone who loves the Impressionist era almost as much as Julien, I appreciated this, and readers can trust that Whitney knows what she's talking about here: she got her degree in art history from Brown University.

Yet for a relatively short book, there's a lot going on. While all the pieces were there for me (I love art, Europe, museums, and Whitney's previous works), for me this story didn't quite hit the spot. Not only is art coming to life, but there's the mystery of Clio's painting, questions of a forger, elements of Julien's school life, his friends, and a whole other slew of things I don't want to spoil on top of a love story that was very, very fast. I also didn't feel like I knew some of these characters or places very well. It took me a while to realize Julien is French, if I'm honest, and though there was a lot of talk of French food, I never felt like I got a strong sense of Paris.

One aspect that strikes me the most about this book is how it's being pitched as magical realism when, to me, this is much more in line with the fantasy genre. In my reading experience, magical realism is when one aspect of reality is changed, often without explanation. However, here there were a lot of rules. Julien has a gift and he can't explain where it comes from, sure, but then there was a whole mythology that made it all feel more like a fantasy or perhaps supernatural.

If you are looking for a quick read with quirky characters, nights at museums, love, and an edge of mystery and mythology, then Starry Nights is probably a book you will really enjoy. The novel is very clearly a love letter to art, especially the Impressionists, and that comes through with every page. I liked this book enough for a fast one-time read, and if it sounds interesting to you, I'd say check to see if your library has a copy you can borrow should the mood strike.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Daisy Whitney's Website
Daisy Whitney on Twitter

Friday, August 30, 2013

Something Strange and Deadly Book Club: Week Four

Hello again and welcome to the final week of the Something Strange & Deadly book club sponsored by Epic Reads. If you want to learn more about this fantastic book club dedicated to Susan Dennard's debut novel, click here.

This Week's Question: "'Eleanor, you have a choice,' [Jie] said softly. 'You always have a choice.'" (p. 166, Something Strange & Deadly)How do you think this quote relates to the overall theme of Something Strange and Deadly? Do you think Eleanor behaves as if she has a choice at the start of the book? What about at the end of the book? And do other characters behave as if they have a choice or do they see themselves as victims of circumstance?

What a question to end this book club on! Choice is a popular concept to explore in fiction for a reason, especially in the world of young adult literature. When people are young adults in their teens and early twenties, it's often the first time in their lives they are making important choices for themselves rather than always having others make them for them. This is absolutely true of Eleanor Fitt. As much as this story is about fighting zombies, it's a journey of making choices and being strong enough to stick with them. Eleanor doesn't behave as if she has a choice at the start of the novel because she's never had one before - these are uncharted waters for her. Over the course of the book, she thinks for herself, develops her own beliefs of good and bad and right and wrong, and by the end we see an empowered young woman who has made incredible sacrifices. Yet I don't feel sorry for her - instead I empathize with her because while she is making her choices, others are making their own. She makes a choice about who and what she wants, but so does Daniel and so do the other Spirit Hunters, and unfortunately they don't all make the same choice. It's heartbreaking and frustrating, but all things considered Eleanor handles it well. Her newfound ability to choose means she no longer has to conform to f that's not what she wants. And Miss Fitt chooses to own her name, which is an awesome sight to behold.

I had so much fun participating in this book club, so thanks to Susan Dennard for this great story and to Epic Reads for sponsoring this!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday Words: Book and a Beverage

The start of the school year continues to be insane, so not much reading has been happening lately (outside of my slow trek through The Fellowship of the Ring). However, I am excited to share that last week The Fuma Files was featured on The Book Addict's Guide, a fantastic YA blog run by the lovely Brittany, for her Book and a Beverage segment. I highly encourage you to check the post and her blog out - in it, I compare The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater and her character Ronan Lynch to drinking a Guinness =)

Click the link here!

Hope you all have a fantastic Wednesday!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Play On: This Song Will Save Your Life

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Farrar Straus Giroux - Expected Release Date: September, 2013

*ARC given by the publisher at ALA - Thank You!!*

All Elise ever wanted was friends. Even just one friend. Someone who she felt like she could talk to and was actually, really listening. It's why she spent the whole summer before her sophomore year trying to change herself so she'd be liked. Now almost a year after her plan and a suicide attempt failed, she might have found a way to the thing she's always wanted through unlikely means: by becoming the hottest new DJ at an underground club.

I can't remember where I heard about this book first, but I've wanted to get my hands on it ever since. Luck was on my side at ALA when the fabulous people at the FSG booth were kind enough to give me an ARC. My expectations were high, and this story blew away all my expectations.

Elise is a girl I can identify with in almost every way. She's been raised to believe that with hard work, with knowing who she is, she can accomplish anything. But that's not always true because there are so many things in this life we can't control like being the victim of bullying - sometimes it's blatant, other times it's more covert, but it always brings pain and leaves a scar. Music is her salvation and I loved how Sales started every chapter with song lyrics and so realistically showed how songs have a way of painting pictures, of bringing things together, of helping us make sense of our world or at least feel connected to someone else who knew exactly what we are feeling now when they wrote and recorded it sometimes years ago.

The protagonist is complex and confused and raw and honest and secondary characters fill out this story beautifully. It's a true to life portrayal of how people effect each other, how we don't always see or understand our own lives sometimes, and why we do things we know we shouldn't. The highs and lows and everything in between were sparkled with enough detail to give me an image, but never overwhelming.

If you love music, if you've ever wanted friends and felt alone, if you've ever worked hard and still feel like you're waiting for it to pay off, pick up a copy of This Song Will Save Your Life. I've already added Sales' other books to my Goodreads to-read list and can't wait to get more great stories from this talented writer.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Leila Sale's Website
Leila Sales on Twitter

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Where's Your Bookmark? (31)

Talking about The Dream Thieves, the second book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. Thanks to Scholastic for giving me this ARC at ALA!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday Words: First Day of School

The title of this post pretty much says it all this time: today is the first day of school in my district. Great timing, too, because it wasn't until last week that I started asking myself "What day is it?"

With most of the hours of my day now being reclaimed by students, teachers, reference questions, lesson teaching, lesson planning, ordering, covering, labeling, Tweeting, book talking, drama club directing, speech judging, chaperoning, and new this year Tumblr-ing (literally just got approval to start a Tumblr for our school library yesterday and I'm so excited!), that means life is about to drastically change from my summer patterns of going to bed 'whenever', sleeping in until 8, and sometimes devoting entire days to curling up with a book.

With only 24 hours in a day, so much to do, and sleep being necessary to function, what happens to my reading time? It's cut down, sure, but I'm going to do my best this year to make sure it's not eliminated. My goal is to read for at least 15 minutes every day. It's not much. I'm currently reading The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time and 15 minutes sometimes isn't even enough to read one chapter, but it's something. Me in the morning with my coffee and a book. It's a great way to start each day, plus by not saving it for the evening, I can still collapse as soon as I walk in the door after a long day if I need to.

So here's to recreational reading, and if you're still in school/working in schools, the assigned reading too! I'd love to know what fantastic titles you are all reading in and out of the classroom - tell me here, on Twitter, or on Goodreads! And now, it's off to work I go.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Something Strange & Deadly Book Club: Week Three

Hello again and welcome to week two of the Something Strange & Deadly book club sponsored by Epic Reads. If you want to learn more about this fantastic book club dedicated to Susan Dennard's debut novel, click here.

This Week's Question: Eleanor finds herself more and more intrigued by (and perhaps attracted to) Daniel Sheridan, the inventor of the Spirit-Hunters. What is it about him that appeals to her? And vice versa, what do you think attracts Daniel to Eleanor? Then there's Clarence Wilcox, the seemingly perfect eligible bachelor. Why do you think Eleanor doesn't like Clarence?

Ah, now we jump into the juicy relationship dynamic! In her original post for these questions, Susan Dennard states that E.M. Forster's novel A Room With a View is one of her all-time favorites. I loved that book as well, and I can see a lot of parallels between that story and this one in terms of Eleanor's relationships with Daniel and Clarence.

I think one of the primary aspects of Daniel that appeals to Eleanor is that he's honest. Not to say he wears his heart on his sleeve or is always open about everything, but he never tries to be something he's not. He's not comfortable with a seemingly rich and good girl sticking her nose in his business and a dark world he's dedicated his life to fighting. He's the only person in Eleanor's life that treats her like she's normal. To her mother, she's a pawn. To Philadelphia society, she's the daughter of a disgrace. But with Daniel, he teases her, calls her Empress, tries to make her feel uncomfortable and at the same time shows her (however unwillingly) a place where she could have a chance to be more than a society girl. He pushes her, and she pushes back. This is key to why I think Daniel is attracted to Eleanor. She's feisty. She doesn't always listen, yet she always has good intentions. They're both vibrant people being muted by their respective situations and the expectations of society. They don't seem to like each other at first, but they do come to respect each other and from that, something more grows.

It's the opposite when examining Clarence Wilcox. Slimey from the start, Clarence is a creep with an agenda. He doesn't even hide it very well, at least not to Eleanor. While charm and a rich family are more than enough in the eyes of Mrs. Fitt, Eleanor sees not all the pieces fit together. Her smarts and ability to pay attention to the world and people around her are the same things that make her a good Spirit Hunter and a good match for Daniel. To Clarence, her skills are nuisance. He represents the worst in men as a manipulative specimen who doesn't think much of others (especially women) and will use whoever he has to if he believes he will benefit in the end.