Harmony Book Reviews

Archive for December 2008

2008 was an amazing year for new books, particularly in the YA genre. I got to read (and review) so many new books that I thought I’d share 10 of my favorites. Here they are (in no particular order):

1.) Deadly Little Secrets by Laurie Faria Stolarz

2.) I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie K.

3.) Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee

4.) I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

5.) Rules by Cynthia Lord

6.) Undone by Brooke Taylor

7.) In Your Room by Jordanna Fraiberg

8.) Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

9.) Madapple by Christina Meldrum

10.) Violet in Private by Melissa Walker

Of course, these are only a few of my favorites. There were a ton of other awesome books I got to read so these are just a few off the top of my head 🙂

Since it’s New Year’s Eve (or it will be when this is posted. Right now it’s the Eve of New Year’s Eve), I figured there’s no better time to post my list of resolutions. I’m dividing this into three parts – resolutions are a blogger/reviewer, resolutions are a writer, and other resolutions. I know many of you are also making resolutions so feel free to comment with yours!

*Blogging/Reviewing Resolutions

*Post atleast FIVE times a week, whether it’s a review or something else

*Post 2-3 reviews each week

*Read more each week, hopefully 3-4 books

*Stay in touch with authors and other reviewers more

*Double my stats

*Writing Resolutions

*Write something non-review-related at least once a week

*Write a few short stories/articles

*Find some people to critique my work

*Start and finish at least one book

*Rewrite something, whether it’s a short story or a book

*Other Resolutions

*Figure out some way to make money (any suggestions? I’m too young to get a “real” job.)

*Start saving money for a car and college

*Get a new camera and take more pictures

*Print out the pictures I have for scrapbooks and frame

*Finish the five billion scrapbooks I have going

*Try something new

 

 

 First off, how was writing Far From You different from writing I Heart You, You Haunt Me?

Hmm, good question. Each book is different in how it gets written. I don’t know if I can explain HOW they are different, they just are. I wrote Far From You before I Heart You was released and I was really aware that soon there’d be a book out there with my name on it. So I think in some ways it was harder. I Heart You came really easily to me, and Far From You didn’t come nearily as easily. But I worked hard to finish it because I really wanted to make sure that the reviews and things didn’t freeze me and make me unable to write, in case there were any negative reviews.

 After I sold it and I was working with my editor on revisions, some of the feedback I’d gotten on the first book made me work harder at character development. So that’s one thing that was different. Although initially it may have hurt to read some criticisms of not having my characters fully realized, I took that feedback to heart and worked on that for the second book.
 
How was your experience publishing and promoting  Far From You different from that of I Heart You?
 
It was really similar, actually. My editor and I worked through a big-picture revision, and I thought he had great suggestions, just like the last time. He really gets me and my writing, so it makes that part of it really wonderful. Everything went smoothly as far as getting copy edits getting done and the first pass pages and all of that. Even the timeline was similar to my first book.
 
As far as promotion, it’s amazing to me how in just two years time, since I sold I Heart You how many more YA books are on the scene. It seems like there are a TON of really fabulous books coming out in 2009 and because this book doesn’t have as much of a hook, I’ve worried about whether or not it’s going to get noticed. Fortunately, I Heart You has done well and I’ve had lots of people write to me about how much they loved it. So, I made sure to touch base with those people and I’m just crossing my fingers my books will continue to find readers.
For those who are just hearing about it, can you briefly explain the plot of Far From You?
It’s about a girl, Alice, who is struggling with some changes in her family, mainly, the birth of a new half sister. She lost her mom to cancer years ago and still misses her terribly. Along with the changes in her family life, she’s a normal teenager dealing with boyfriend stuff and best friend stuff. Things kind of blow up all at once, just as she’s leaving for a trip. On the way home, they find themselves stuck in a terrible snow storm, and through that experience, Alice is able to get some perspective on life and love. I think in a lot of ways, the themes in this book are similar to the ones in my last one. Love and loss, healing and hope are, at its core, is what it is about.
What inspired you to write Far From You?
Out of the Dust is this incredible verse novel that takes place in this hot and dusty place. Some of the pages, as you read, you can almost taste the dust. I thought, I want an element like that I could put into a novel and really use the poetry to make it come alive. So what’s the opposite of heat? Cold. And I started remembering these stories I’d heard of people getting lost in the snow, and I had a seed of an idea. On top of that, I had always wanted to do a book with some Alice and Wonderland references, so I knew my main character would be named Alice.
If it were to be made into a movie, who do you picture playing the characters?
 
I honestly have no clue. I think you should post your ideas, now that you’ve read the book. 🙂
What are you working on now? What can we expect from you next?
My publisher just bought a third book from me, but for the first time, I sold it on a partial. So I have to finish it! It’s tentatively titled Chasing Brooklyn and it’s another ghostly love story, but very different from I Heart You, but something fans of that book will like (I hope).
Who are your favorite authors? Are there any books you’ve read during ’08 that really stand out in your mind?
 
I’m a huge fan of Laurie Halse Anderson. Her book CHAINS blew me away – I really loved it. I also adore John Green, Sara Zarr, Sarah Dessen, and so many others.
 
As far as books in ’08, THE HUNGER GAMES was amazing and I cannot WAIT for the sequel. I also read an ARC of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and I think teens are really going to love that book. Other favorites in 2008 were THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE by Liz Gallagher, SHIFT by Jen Bradbury, THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD by Donna Freitas, and PAPER TOWNS by John Green.
What advice do you have for your teen readers?
 
I assume you mean writing advice? Well, the first thing is the one every author says, I think, and that’s to read, read, read. The best writers read a lot. I also like to tell people to play and have fun with writing. Try different things. You never know when something might really click with you. You might think you could never write from a male’s POV, for example, and then one day you try and wow, you can’t believe the voice and maybe THAT is what you are meant to do. So yeah, write a lot, but try different things and have fun with it!
Do you have any goals for the New Year? If so, what are they?
 
Finish the third book is the biggest one at this point! And you know, I really want to make it fantastic. I know I can only do the best I can, but I’m going to give it everything I’ve got, that’s for sure.

Girl from Away
Title:  Milagros: Girl From Away

Author: Meg Medina 

Rating: 8/10

Summary:Milagros de le Torre hasn’t had an easy life: ever since her father sailed away with pirates she’s been teased at school and there’s the constant struggle for her family to make ends meet. Still, Milagros loves her small island in the Caribbean, and she finds comfort in those who recognize her special gifts. But everything changes when marauders destroy Milagros’s island and with it, most of the inhabitants. Milagros manages to escape in a rowboat where she drifts out to sea with no direction, save for the mysterious manta rays that guide her to land. In stunning prose,Meg Medina creates a fantastical world in which a young girl uncovers the true meaning of family, the significance of identity, and, most important, the power of a mother’s love.

My Thoughts:I have mixed feeling about this book. On one side, I was completely blown away by the story itself but on the other, the ending was just..weird and there were parts the dragged by. For instance, for the first part of the story, there’s all this build-up and excitement and then something semi-big happens and then…nothing. Then, there’s more build-up and excitement about what’s going to happen and then you have the weird ending. It’s not icky weird or anything but it left me going “Um, okay?”

But other than that, I really enjoyed it. Milagros was an interesting character to read about and I loved her adventurous style. The prose itself was nearly poetic, making this a flowing read, and the plot was intriguing.

So despite the ending, I’m going to recommend this one. I look forward to any upcoming novels from this author.

Rules (Apple Signature)Title: Rules

Author: Cynthia Lord

Rating: 10/10

Summary: (Taken from Amazon)

 Twelve-year-old Catherine has conflicting feelings about her younger brother, David, who is autistic. While she loves him, she is also embarrassed by his behavior and feels neglected by their parents. In an effort to keep life on an even keel, Catherine creates rules for him (It’s okay to hug Mom but not the clerk at the video store). Each chapter title is also a rule, and lots more are interspersed throughout the book. When Kristi moves in next door, Catherine hopes that the girl will become a friend, but is anxious about her reaction to David. Then Catherine meets and befriends Jason, a nonverbal paraplegic who uses a book of pictures to communicate, she begins to understand that normal is difficult, and perhaps unnecessary, to define. Rules of behavior are less important than acceptance of others. Catherine is an endearing narrator who tells her story with both humor and heartbreak. Her love for her brother is as real as are her frustrations with him. Lord has candidly captured the delicate dynamics in a family that revolves around a child’s disability. Set in coastal Maine, this sensitive story is about being different, feeling different, and finding acceptance. A lovely, warm read, and a great discussion starter.

My Thoughts:Whoa. I can honestly say this is one of the best books I’ve read in a while, which is saying something, especially since this is classified as MG. Anyway, I started this on Christmas Day night just to try it , even though I’d really started a few books I’d received as Christmas presents, and I only put it done once (and that was only because we were going to my grandma’s). I stayed up half the night, despite being ridiculously tired from the food and excitement of the day, just to finish it. So what made the book so great?

For one, the plot flew by effortlessly. It wasn’t one of those plots were one big thing happens and everything is resolved. It’s one of those where the MC learns to deal with something better and also experiences some little things that change her point-of-view, which sometimes makes it seem like there’s no plot but in this case, it worked out perfectly.

Then there’s the characters. Catherine, David, and Jason were so incredibly well-developed that I felt like I knew them. Catherine was so easy to relate to that it almost felt like I was her, dealing with David and Jason myself. David, having had some friends with autism in the past, was also realistic. But, above both of them, Jason was by far my favorite. Not a whole lot is said about why he’s in the wheelchair but the way he treats Catherine and how he acts makes him a unique character. I would have loved to see more of him in the story.

Rules was not what I expected but it blew me away. If you haven’t read it, I recommend that you do. You won’t be disappointed.

If you have Yahoo set as your homepage, you probably noticed their story on how the day after Christmas is becoming the new Black Friday? Well, one of their featured stores was Barnes and Nobles who is have 50-90% thousands of books. So, since I had a giftcard to there, I decided to take use of the sales. Here’s what I bought for just $25.92

Queen of Babble

Pretty Little Liars

Bras and Broomsticks

Webminster Abby

Between Mom and Jo

Are We There Yet?

CosmoGirl Quizbook (hey! it was only $2!)

The Geography of Girlhood

So eight books for $25! That, to me, is a crazy deal, since normally, I would be lucky to get three or four books for that price!

Some of these books are sold out already but they have tons more so if you have a giftcard, maybe you should go and check these out!

I absolutely adored Suzanne’s book, Artichoke’s Heart, (see my review here) and Suzanne is extremely nice to chat with. So I’m very happy to present this interview to you. Enjoy!

What was your inspiration for Artichoke’s Heart?

I was sitting in the chair at my hairdresser’s, and I had all this glop on my head, and the lighting was bad, and that black cape is always hideous, and there were mirrors everywhere. I couldn’t wait to leave! Suddenly, I had this idea about a girl who couldn’t escape because she worked there. I guess it’s appropriate that Rosie was born in a beauty shop.

Did you ever experience anything similar to what Rosemary was going through during Artichoke’s Heart?

Yes and no. I gained weight when I went away to college, but I was never overweight in high school or taunted the way Rosie is. I relate to Rosie’s internal struggles—her lack of confidence, her desire to fit in, her need to be closer to her mom. I have struggled with all these things.

Which of the characters was your favorite to write about? Who was the hardest to write about?

Moms are always difficult. Of course, I am a mom, so I tend to understand their side of things, even if I don’t agree with their choices. But, I also know what it’s like to be a teenager who doesn’t get along with her mom. I try to balance the teenage girl who is still very much alive in my heart (even though chronologically I’m WAY past that stage) and the mom I am today. This is always, always tricky!
I think my absolute favorite character is Richard. I LOVE him! He’s so funny and sweet and complicated. He’s frustrated with where he is in life, too, and he’s a good friend to Rosie. He’s probably the only person who really gets her, at least in the beginning of the book.

What would be your advice for teens struggling with issues similar to Rosemary’s?

I think it would be to try to love yourself the way you are TODAY, not six months from now when you lose weight or achieve some goal you’re trying for. Whether you’re big or little, pretty or just average, you are irreplaceable. Sounds sappy, I know, but it’s true.

What was your road to publication like? Can you share any of your experiences with us?

It took me years and years to get published. It was so frustrating and heartbreaking at times, but I am an extremely determined person. I never, ever gave up, and when one book didn’t sell, I wrote another. Finally, a wonderful agent, Ann Tobias, agreed to represent me, and she passed Artichoke’s Heart on to Julie Strauss-Gabel, my brilliant, talented editor at Dutton. Julie and Ann are such smart, talented women, and I am so very lucky to be able to work with them.

Are you working on anything right now? What can you tell us about it?

Yes, my next book is Somebody Everybody Listens To, and it’s the story of Retta Jones, a Tennessee River girl who wants leave her small town to become a big-time country music star. I’ve also written a novel for Penguin’s Students Across the Seven Seas series called When Irish Guys Are Smiling. Irish Guys was released this past January, and it’s available in paperback.

Do you have any crazy habits while you write? For example, do you have to be in a specific room or do you only write at night, etc.

I am a very cold-natured person, and I sit right next to this roaring space heater to keep warm. My husband will come home and find me hunched over my computer, and he’ll say, “Uh, you realize it’s like a hundred degrees in here, right?”

Do you listen to music while you write? Who are some of your bands/singers?

I love all kinds of music—everything from Barry Manilow to the Doors to Dolly Parton. I’m very eclectic when it comes to music. Right now, I’m listening to a lot of country music because of the book I’m working on—Garth, Faith, Carrie, Tyler, Dolly, Hank, Johnny, Loretta, Patsy. Aerosmith and Bon Jovi and Madonna seem to dominate my playlist when I’m at the gym. I’m addicted to my iPod, and I have the bad hearing to prove it. I’m like the poster child for TURN THE MUSIC DOWN.

Who is your favorite author? What are some of your favorite books?

Right now I’m reading a new author, Sarah Quigley. Her book will be out in spring 2009, and it’s called TMI. She’s super funny! I’m also reading Twisted by L.H. Anderson, and I just finished John Green’s Paper Towns, although I keep calling it Paper Dolls for some bazaar reason. I’m a huge Sarah Dessen fan, too. In addition to YA, I love the classics—Flannery O’Connor, Steinbeck, the Brontes, Hemingway, Thomas Hardy (I’m completely hooked on him), Anne Tyler, Lee Smith, John Irving, Ayn Rand. I could go on and on and on. So many books, so little time!

What advice do you have for any aspiring writers reading this?

Read. Write. Rewrite. Never give up. And, really, if you’re a true, blue writer, giving up isn’t an option; writing is something you HAVE to do. Also, read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
 

 


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