Fall for Lauren Kate’s Fallen

Have you ever met someone that left you stunned? You think that somewhere you’ve seen that smile before. The goose bumps crawl across your arms and neck as you try to place the hair and the eyes into any memory you’ve ever had. It’s impossible. You know you have never met, but you can’t let go of that feeling. Then, he flips you off and gives you the cold shoulder. That’s the relationship that begins between Luce and her brand new reform school crush, Daniel.

Luce has had some problems in her past, a mysterious fire that she can’t explain and shadows that flit through her peripheral vision more often than she would like. Her parents, desperate to figure out how to help their daughter, send her to a reform school where she would be strictly monitored. So began a parade of interesting characters that would make Luce’s experience at Sword & Cross anything but typical.

Fallen’s imaginative plot arc takes the classic story of enduring love to a whole new level. Luce is a character that, while not a kick ass heroine, is an honestly lonely girl that just wants to know what’s wrong with her. You can’t always start with a character that knows who she is and what she’s setting out to do, that’s part of the journey! Kate’s characters speak to a side of teenagers that we hardly see in YA lit—a realistic need to just be a teen. Throughout the somewhat mundane, there is always an eerie quality that saturates the narrative. From the creepy feeling that she’s seen Daniel before to the bone chilling sensation the reader gets when Luce talks to Cam for the first time, Fallen does not fail to deliver on atmosphere.

The follow up to Fallen, Torment, continues to impress the reader with intricate plot twists. Often the reader will feel as if there is a wealth of information just beyond the veil and any hint of dialogue will reveal everything we’ve been dying to know. The battle for true love wages on while Luce continues to feel as if everything is being turned upside down on her. The past haunts her every shadow and Daniel is just as infuriating as ever. With clever quips that made me laugh out loud and run to share with my friends, Torment kept my attention and entertained me though it ripped out my heart and broke it into a million pieces. I was, however, promised redemption in the next installment, Passion. Fans of Fallen will definitely love this heart aching sequel and will continue to ache until Passion comes to clear away our doubt and fears. Readers who have yet to get involved with Lauren Kate’s enchanting characters would do well to give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed. I was incredibly lucky to have an opportunity to talk with the lovely and charming Lauren Kate (seriously, she’s the nicest person). Come back later to check out that interview!

115.75.48.6

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Were Raising

Raised by Wolves is a novel by Jennifer Lynn Barnes set to drop in June of 2010. This is not her first novel, she has written Golden, Platinum, Tattoo, Fate and The Squad series. This new novel is about a girl named Bronwyn, or more affectionately, Bryn. At four years old, her family was brutally murdered by a rogue werewolf driven by blood lust and a desire to kill. Bryn hid from him as long as she could, relying on a survival instinct. Her life is intercepted by Callum, Alpha of the Stone River pack of werewolves. He takes Bryn under his wing and she becomes a human in a pack of werewolves, claimed by the Alpha as something special.

We meet Bryn when she’s fifteen years old, already accustomed to pack life as a human and cherished by the Alpha as precious and fragile. There is something wrong in the air and even Bryn’s weakened human senses pick up on it. The wolves are antsy and they don’t want their human charge to be roaming the woods at night. Bryn latches on to this, never one to be put down by dominance games. She is her own woman and she aims to stay that way. Her stubbornness and need for independence leads her to a boy named Chase. He was mauled by a werewolf and left for dead. Callum found him and brought him into the fold, giving Bryn an opportunity to meet the boy and stumble upon the secrets of the pack. Together they must decide where their loyalty truly resides, with the pack or with each other.

The beginning of the novel is very hard to get through, Barnes consistently uses clichés and already established phrases. Instead of saying “to a T” several times in a chapter, I felt that she could have found more creative ways to depict how perfect and absolute the situation was. Some of the dialogue felt forced as well as the portrayal of some characters, for example Devon. It is understandable that he is a metrosexual, but the obsession with movie musicals and high fashion tends to depict him as a stereotypical homosexual. It’s not enough that Dev is more interested in how he looks than in how strong he is; the stakes for him need to be higher in order to claim him as different from the pack.

I almost gave up. Almost. Then, it seemed as if everything Barnes was holding leading up was unleashed in a tidal wave of emotion and strength. When the focus of the story became the emotions of the characters and what it meant to be a pack, I was sucked in. There was so much in her description of what the pack felt and how they all affected each other and protected each other that it latched onto my heart. My doubts vanished and I was happy that I spent time with these characters.

Barnes explores very important themes for teenage girls. Bryn wouldn’t succumb to the dominance of the pack. She held onto her independence for as long as she could. There are too many girls out there today that think it’s okay to let someone else take their independence. Bryn would teach them that it’s not. Everything that’s in your heart belongs to you and only you. Another theme is family, which in a way weaves through the theme of Bryn’s fight against dominance. There is a difference between letting your family in and being protective and letting them control you and hurt you because you did something wrong. Just because they have ties to you as a family does not mean they have a right to destroy you from the inside. Family is something different, and that is what Bryn discovers with the help of her friends.

The novel ended on a question mark. There seems to be the possibility that Bryn’s story could continue, and I certainly hope it does. Definitely a good read for the summer, be sure to pick it up when it hits stores on June 8th. She has her own Live Journal, so go show her some love. Raised by Wolves is available for pre-order.

Happy reading!

P.S– I know I haven’t been keeping up as much as I should, and I suck for that. I’m in the final stretch of my semester and everything is rising up into a crescendo of chaos and disorder. Summer approaches filled with promises of lazy afternoons and wonderful books to read. Thank you for all of your support and interest. Hold on with me during the next couple of weeks. I need you guys.

Proud To Be…

This Is Me From Now On is a Middle Grade novel that was released in April of 2010. I was skeptical at first, since my specialty is Young Adult. I quickly found out that my misgivings were unfounded. I read an excerpt of the novel online and was blown away. If I didn’t know that the characters were in seventh grade then I would have guessed by the language and the introduction of the characters that they were entering junior year of high school.

 

Barbara Dee was kind enough to send me a copy of her novel for me to read and review for Kiss My Lit. This Is Me From Now On is about a girl named Evie entering the seventh grade with her two best friends. We enter the novel at the end of summer, when everyone is starting to feel the walls of school closing in. It was time for Evie to find out which educational track she was going to be on for the school year. It was also time for Evie to make a new friend. Francesca is her new quirky neighbor that doesn’t believe in the rules and constantly breaks them. Francesca rocks Evie’s safe little world and shakes it loose. Francesca is a “little bit psychic” about something, like the secret romance between two teachers. Will their efforts to bring together a tragic love bring joy and an awesome grade in U. S History? Or will it just bring disaster?| 

The language in this novel was oddly grown up for seventh grade girls. I love that the main theme in the novel is not romance or trying to get a boyfriend. It’s about friendship and making a friendship last no matter what’s going on around you. I think a lot of girls have trouble with this when they get to be preteens. At this age you’re starting to figure out who you are and it’s possible your old friends might not like who you’re becoming. Evie is struggling to figure out who she is and Francesca’s freedom of self shows her that not everything has to fit inside perfect rules. Witty and spunky, Dee’s writing made me smile all the way through. It was clever and an honest throwback to being in middle school and trying to figure things out. 

Barbara Dee is a wife and mother of three. She started writing her first novel Just Another Day In My Insanely Real Life when her youngest was just starting to hit the public school cycle. Her second novel, Solving Zoe, is up for the 2010 Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year under the “Coming of Age Category” for 9-12 years old. Solving Zoe is also a nominee for the 2010 3 Apples Book Award under the teen category alongside great titles like Spinelli’s Stargirl and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

-What drew you to this level of writing (In terms of Middle Grade vs. Young Adult vs. Adult)? 

There are two reasons that I write for this age group. One of them is that when my own kids were this age (one of them still really is), there just didn’t seem to be enough choices for them in the library or even in book stores. Lots of times kids outgrow the children’s section but they’re not ready for the darker, edgier stuff in YA. I read a lot of YA, I love YA, I don’t have a problem with YA and I prefer to read YA, sometimes. I think sometimes when kids are 11, 12, 13, 14 sometimes; they’re not quite ready for it. I wanted to write books that were funny but took this age seriously. [Books] that didn’t write down to them or condescend to them, that took their emotions, their needs, and their thoughts seriously but at the same time are a little lighter and brighter than the things that are in YA. I tried to deal with concerns that kids this age have, but do it in a way that’s not quite hardcore YA. The other reason is that I have a strong sense of how I felt when I was that age. I can go there really easily and draw on emotions from that age really easily. Every writer has a reservoir of emotions to go back to and for some reason mine is the emotions of a 12 or 13 year old girl. That’s just very natural for me. 

-Who was your favorite character to write in This is Me From Now On

I really identified with Evie. When I was a 7th grader, I was a very good girl who played by all the rules and wanted to please my teachers and got very good grades. But I felt a little bit restless. I became friendly with a girl who was much wilder and less inhibited than I was. She always had me a little bit off balance but it was one of those friendships that really made a huge impact. The details of This is Me From Now On are not the details from my own life, I don’t use them. The emotion of those years, I used. I felt like Evie feels and I was both fascinated and horrified by this friend in the same way Evie is so I used those emotions. I identified very strongly with Evie but the character who’s my favorite is Francesca because I was drawn to that sort of character as a kid. I really like hanging out with her even now, I think she’s just fun! Everyone needs a Francesca in their life, it’s just that you have to be very careful of the chaos a friend like that can cause. 

-Do you think you’ll write for older kids or even adults? 

I might, I’m not sure about adults but I might very well write for older kids at some point. The next book I have coming out next spring is called Trauma Queen which I think is edging a little further toward YA, but I’m still very comfortable in this age group. I still don’t feel bored with this group nor have I exhausted all of my creativity writing about this group. It’s not like I have plans to write a YA imminently, but at some point I certainly would not rule it out. 

-What do you feel are the most important themes that you explore? 

Learning how to read other people in a nonjudgmental way, learning how to accept your own imperfections and other people’s imperfections, getting out of your comfort zone is one of the major themes of This is Me From Now On. That’s a very good thing for kids at that age to be able to do because I think kids feel trapped. In my books, I have that theme a lot, of kids feeling trapped by their relationships and ready to make new ones and not quite knowing how to do that or knowing how to bridge old and new relationships. I think one of the big themes of This is Me From Now On is learning how to accept and express yourself and even though sometimes other people might not want to hear what you have to say, it’s important to you and you have to express it. Feel comfortable with yourself. That’s a theme of Trauma Queen and Solving Zoe too. 

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-How do your kids feel about your career? Your husband? 

They’re really happy about it! It’s nice for them because when they see that their friends are reading my books and liking them, and laughing and thinking that they’re cool, that’s nice. I spend a lot of time over at the middle schools in town. I just had a lunch party at our local library and their friends came. It was very nice, for This Is Me From Now On, we had them act out scenes from the book. It became a celebration not just of me and my book but of all the kids in town who like to read and feel that this book is a product of the whole community. We all know each other and every time I have a new book that comes out, everyone’s excited about it. I show my drafts to kids, and I’ll ask “What’s a word a kid would use for this?” and they’ll tell me, or they’ll say “a kid would never say that”. I feel like it’s a product of our family and our community. It’s a nice feeling. 

-What are some of your favorite books?
When You Reach Me,
by Rebecca Stead. Liar, by Justine Larbalestier, and Going Bovine, by Libba Bray are my three favorites from this year. 

-What do you think of the books your kids are reading in school?
I used to be an English teacher myself. I taught a lot of Shakespeare, Pride and Prejudice, Hamlet, Huckleberry Finn, so I love books that are classics. I also think graphic novels are great. I would like kids to have access to every book in the YA section. I’m not judgmental about books at all. By the time they’re in high school they should be reading Pride and Prejudice in class and graphic novels at home just for sheer pleasure. In the MS years, sometimes the list they have to choose from is finite. I’d like to see more choices. 

-Do you think you’re going to write a sequel to This is Me From Now On?
I’m always a little bit nervous about sequels. Unless you’re JK Rowling, sometimes sequels have a rehashed quality to them. This Is Me From Now On has a certain spirit to it I’d be afraid of losing. If I did it, it would be because I had more plot in my head that I wanted to tell. I think I’ve got the characters and I would like to spend more time with them, but I wouldn’t want to write a book just to spend more time with them. I would want to have a story to tell. I think it ends on a question mark, which leaves it open for future adventures and I certainly think that the character Francesca would be hatching up new schemes. It wouldn’t be too hard to do it, but I’m not thinking of one immediately. 

-What’s the most common question your fans ask?
They often ask if there’s going to be a sequel. I find that flattering because that means they like the book and they want to keep reading. I love it when they ask that. Sometimes they ask if there is going to be a movie. I wish there would be, I would love for there to be a movie. I will tell anyone who wants to buy the rights to my book that I will be the easiest writer to work with. I don’t have any control over that, though. It’s not up to me if there will be one. 

-What are you reading now?
Actually, I just picked up Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts. I never read her before. She’s somebody who’s written a bunch of sequels too. I’m always interested in people who have written series. I haven’t started yet, but it’s on my book shelf. 

-Who is your inspiration?
Honestly, it’s not like I have a person who I look to. I really think about my own emotions, how I felt when I was that age. That’s where I start. I think you can imagine a character from the outside but unless you can connect with the emotion that the character is feeling in a very personal way based on your own emotions, it’s harder to develop the full character. So, when I’m thinking about starting a new book I think “Does this ring true for how I know I felt when I was that age?” and if it doesn’t seem to be calling up the sort of emotional memories that I have, then I don’t connect with the character and it doesn’t seem to be the kind of character I want to spend time with. I don’t use it. So, this may sound weird but in a certain way my inspiration is myself as a twelve year old. 

I would like to thank Ms. Dee for taking the time out to chat with me. She’s a wonderful lady and writes stunning and interesting books for kids. Definitely pick her up, even if you feel like you may be too old. Some of her themes are the ones we don’t outgrow. Check out Barbara Dee’s website here. Her novels are available for purchase here

For Boys Only

So, a customer came up to me while I was cleaning the kids section and asked me what I would recommend for a teenage boy. At that moment, I had nothing. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to recommend in the Young Adult section for teen boys. First we must consider what kind of boy the recommendation is for. If he doesn’t like fantasy then it’s going to be more difficult.

Walter Dean Myers has a large body of work consisting of realistic and historical fiction, interesting to boys and girls alike. Key titles include: Fallen Angels, Monster, Slam! and Hoops. Gary Paulsen is also an author boys may enjoy; his work consists mostly of survival stories such as Hatchet, The River, and Brian’s Winter. I also feel that John Green offers some solace for boys in need of something to read– An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and Looking for Alaska are all about the boy’s side of romance. David Levithan would be a good recommendation for boys that are more on the sensitive side, exploring male characters that are not as represented in Young Adult fiction (Boy Meets Boy, Love is the Higher Law, Wide Awake and his collaboration with John Green: Will Grayson, Will Grayson). Another great writer for boys is Markus Zusak, an author that crafted a story about a female protagonist from death’s point of view as well as a novel about a young man who needed to turn his life around through the mysterious messages left by an anonymous guide (The Book Thief and I am the Messenger). King Dork by Frank Portman is a modernized Catcher in the Rye, often alluding to its inspiration in order to keep the story moving. Lastly, Tweak by Nic Sheff opens up a pathway into the dark world of drugs, something that boys should learn about sooner or later.

Fantasy is an easier genre to develop recommendations for, since boys that like fantasy are more willing to forgive the slightly gushy goings on between characters. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments may have a female protagonist and teen angst, but there is enough focus on the inner workings of both male leads that a teenage boy could be interested (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass). Amelia Atwater-Rhodes also offers a lot for both genders of teen reader, her Shapeshifter series shifted between female and male narrators, continuing the story. None of the female characters spend time on angst (Hawksong, Snakedance, etc). James Patterson expanded into the Young Adult genre with several titles, Maximum Ride, Dangerous Days of Daniel X, and Witch & Wizard are all worthy titles for boys. I would also recommend Maggie Stiefvater’s Faerie series. The first book, Lament may not seem like something boys will like due to  the main character being an Irish girl that can see faeries and plays the harp, but the sequel, Ballad, was told from the point of view of Deirdre’s bag-piping smart ass best friend, James. Percy Jackson and the Olympians is often recommended for teen boys; my hesitation with this series is that it is independent reader, not Young Adult. Though, Harry Potter is also independent reader but developed into an adult read as well as one for kids. A very popular title for boys, though I’m not sure how I feel about it, is the Inheritance Cycle series. The writing isn’t great but if it’s story you’re looking for then Paolini has great organization and elements of story telling (Star Wars but with dragons). My last recommendation for boys is Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, a story about a young boy in a literal prison and a young girl in a cultural prison.

I hope this helps parents looking for what to get your boys in order to spark their interest in reading. If you have any questions about the books listed here, feel free to e-mail me.

All books mentioned above available through your local bookseller.