Thursday, June 30, 2011

Recommending Wildefire (With an ARC Giveaway)

Just got in from New Orleans. At 1:30 AM. I'm exhausted, but  it's been ages since I posted, especially a review. I've been wanting to review WILDEFIRE for weeks now, too. And  really. There is just no time like right this moment. But first:

Have you heard of UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi yet? So excited about this book--even more so now after seeing it's new cover!

under the never sky
Summary: Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—nicknamed The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms eventually will. In this dystopia, even the very air she breathes could kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild, dangerous—a savage. He’s also her only hope.


Perry needs Aria, too. She alone holds the key to his redemption. And their unlikely alliance will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

I'm totally digging this cover. Just thought I'd share. You can learn more about UNDER THE NEVER SKY (coming Feb 2012 from Harper Collins) on Veronica's blog and her group blog YA MUSES. Dude, the book has already sold to more than 20 countries.

Some other good news for the YA MUSES:

Congratulations, Donna Cooner on your two-book deal with Scholastic

Donna's SKINNY will debut in Fall 2012. Such exciting news!


And now, back to regularly scheduled programming...

(Make sure you check out the ARC of WILDEFIRE giveaway at the end!)

***********************
WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight

wildefire
Summary: Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.


MY REVIEW


If I had to choose one word to describe WILDEFIRE, it would have to be...unpredictable. I whipped through the pages, just waiting to see what new turns the story would take. It begins with action and ends with--well, I won't tell you. But suffice it to say you won't see it coming. Somewhere in the middle, I shouted, "OMG, WTF, Karsten!" I think my heart actually started racing. There was this...running...and there were just these...things--creepy, eerie take-you-by-surprise-add-a-whole-new-dimension-to-the-story things. There comes a point when you realize there's so much more to this world than you envisioned. The story just sort of grows and widens and sucks you in deeper and deeper.

It's also just really fun. Ash has some mega skills. A can-do, take-action sort of girl, she's no damsel in distress, no matter who's harassing her (or trying to kill her). But there's another layer to Ash, which adds to her complexity; she's a fighter, but not out of choice. She doesn't hesitate to protect herself, but she doesn't particularly like it. It's this inner turmoil that sets her apart from her equally strong sister--and makes her so appealing as a character. Her distaste for violence and a natural aversion to using her abilities to their greatest extent drives a good portion of her actions and decisions.

There's a hot romance, too, which adds to that feeling of un-put-downableness. But the romance is not the main element of the story--it elevates the tension and adds yet another layer of complexity to the plot and to Ash as a character. Which, if you didn't catch it from the summary, is already fairly complex by virtue of the fact that Ash is actually a goddess. And not just any goddess. I won't go into any specifics as it would ruin it for you, but what Knight does with the gods in this world is truly unique. Truly...unpredictable.

The writing itself will pull you in, too--clever turns of phrase and indefatigable humor. Ash has this incredible, dry sense of humor, whether she's speaking or thinking. It's subtle and by no means makes this a comedy, but it will have you cracking up. Ash is refreshingly blunt, but also witty. It's a perfect combination--a voice that can hold its own in a kickass urban fantasy. WILDEFIRE is a wild ride: funny, original and jam-packed with excitement.

WILDEFIRE will be available July 26, 2011.


WIN an ARC of WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight!


This giveaway is international and ends July 7, 2011 at midnight EST.


CLICK HERE to enter to win an ARC of WILDEFIRE

Thank you and good luck!

***********************

Be sure to check out what the other Bookanistas are highlighting today:

Bookanistas-logo-hisnhers
Elana Johnson adores A Need So Beautiful
LiLa Roecker is gaga for Are You Going to Kiss Me Now?
Christine Fonseca interviews YA Fiction for Dummies author Deborah Halverson – with giveaway
Beth Revis interviews A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie author Matt Blackstone
Carolina M Valdez is wowed by Wildfire – with giveaway
Shana Silver and Veronica Rossi gush over Hourglass
Jen Hayley delves into Divergent
Rosemary Clement-Moore thinks Chime is divine
Stasia Ward Kehoe has applause for Trauma Queen

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When MISS is Code for Something Way Bigger

Last you heard from me, I was taking a break from pretty much everything. That was sort of a fabrication. I mean, YES, I took a break. I didn't write, and as you may realize, I didn't blog really. I barely emailed, et cetera. I did, however, feel all itchy inside from not doing any of that stuff. Not, like, itchy, people. Anxious, I mean. And I did clean a bit. I also ran loads of errands and stayed up way too freaky late, and also I read. Laundry. Cooking. You know, existence stuff. I guess even the best laid resting plans get derailed by existing.

For example author John Green decided to do a signing on Monday near my house (again), and so I had to go. Of course.

I went with my friend Liza Kane, which was amazing, but we have way too much fun together, and we ended up talking in my car until after midnight...after a brilliant night listening to THE MAN JG--see Liza's awesome post on this HERE--and eggs and sausage and stuff at Bob Evans.




And there was this guy in a pickup truck near us in the empty car park, and he was flashing his lights at us periodically--I'm pretty sure he was probably a meth dealer, or sold stolen televisions or maybe wanted to convert us to his religion or something. Anyway, I didn't get home until super late. And then today--err, yesterday, I spent the day preparing for a trip to New Orleans by shopping and stuff, only to discover we didn't need to leave our house at 4 AM Wednesday morning for the airport as planned because our flight was delayed a million hours. That means I didn't have to go to sleep early and I could work late.


SO. Here I am. At 4 AM, posting finally about WisCon (conference in Madison, May 2011). I will make this brief. Err. Well.

DSC02955 Here I am with J. Koyanagi who is totally off-the-heezy awesome. Here we are upon arrival.







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We hung (hanged?) with (from left after J) Derek Molata and Sara McClung and Brad Beaulieu and Holly McDowell. FanTASTIC group of people. So beautiful, I had to get an aerial view. Thank goodness I have angel wings.

Oh my word, I love us.

Is that wrong to say? Should I be more modest? Ok, I will say: Awwwwww, I MISS us.

P.S. This bar was kind of ooky, but the soft pretzels were drooling good.

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We did lots of stuff. Like, we went out with these people to eat Nepalese food. The only one (of the new three) whose name I can remember is Shveta Thakrar because, although the other two were lovely people, Shveta is super sweet and I spent way more time with her and now we are happy friends.  Also, my memory is pee poor.




DSC02958 We pretty much went to this cupcake shop every day. J is looking forlorn because she has a very restricted diet and cannot eat the most delicious foods like sweet stuff. She indulged only a little. I, on the other hand, indulged frequently. I'm pretty sure those cupcakes were laced with magic.




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Here we are walking in the rain. Hence the umbrella.
(Sara, me and J)







DSC02979 Here is our group, looking most dapper.
I MISS us. SO MUCH.







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Here I am sitting in between Holly and Brad, two people I would bookmark if they were websites.

Was that cheesy? Yes. Yes it was. Eh. Missing makes cheese of us all.





I'll come back to this when I review it, but for now, soak this in. The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Rae Carson. Remember it. After you read it, you will MISS it.





DSC03010 Here I am with Sara. I'll just let the picture speak for itself. Happy happy happy.
I MISS us. I MISS YOU. <3 <3







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SUSHI!!!!!!








DSC03017 SUSHI WITH DEREK!!!!!!









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With J. OMG, awwww!
Seriously. MISS.







DSC03027 Derek joining in on the fun. Unexpectedly. MISS.








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Sniff. I MISS you, Holly.
MISSMISSMISS







DSC03030 Don't you love it when people post pictures that depict a private joke that you're not in on? And then they say, "You just had to be there"?






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Here I am with J and Shveta eating Mexican food. MISS. Had so much fun. Also our waitress was kind of slow. But the slowness was offset by the gigantic bowl of soup in front of me.





DSC03054 See?








DSC03022 DSC03029

I MISS us. Very much.

MISSMISSMISSMISSMISSMISSMISSMISSMISS et cetera

*******************

Okay, so I'm not sure when I'll post again. I'm leaving for New Orleans to attend the ALA annual conference and to have fun and stuff. So it might be awhile. I intend to review next week, though. I swear. But maybe I'll post sometime before then. Maybe I'll do something fun, like post random photos of alligators and heads and stuff. Or I could just wait. I don't know. Miss you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Eat. Watch. Stare.

I told myself that I would blog every day this week. And. Yeah.

Anyway.

I've been kind of sick. And also tired. Very tired. I have this tendency to work myself to the point of exhaustion. Which certainly doesn't help fight off sickness. 3 AM bedtimes do a real number on your immune system. School is also out, and as most parents of school children could probably attest to, life becomes a little more complicated when the kids are home 24-7. You have to do things like feed them and stuff.

Seriously, motherhood takes serious work, and oh my god, I'm not going into it in this post. So not the point. Assume it requires a ridiculous amount of time and physical and mental energy. But motherhood when the kids are home all the time? Well. It's beautiful. AWEsome. But. I have other activities, like volunteering or whatever. And then I have another job doing all my writerly and readerly stuff. I won't go into the laundry list. Who cares. But assume that on top of all the typical writerly/readerly and social networking stuff, I write. Obsessively. I write and revise and write more and revise and plot and research and write crap and write awesome and write more crap and write awesome and play with my kids and make them food and clean and play with my kids and then write crap/write awesome/write crap/write awesome and it just.goes.on.

So I'm busy. I stay up until 2 or later most nights. I don't watch TV. I watch a movie maybe every other week. I turn down girls' night out usually. Parties? Hmm.

Here's what I do allow myself: I give myself free time...to shower. Sometimes. I try to run a couple miles a few times a week. I take vitamins. I get the mail a few days a week. There you go. 

But since the kids have been out of school, I sort of just...got tired. I became profoundly aware of the exhaustion settling deep inside of me. I discovered this need to sleep in late and then lounge in my pajamas, sitting inside my daughter's cardboard clubhouse watching iCarly, eating pita chips with hummus. I realized that I wanted to do nothing more than watch movie after movie after movie. I wanted to watch TV.  I wanted to shop. Leisurely. I wanted to sit beside the pool, getting sweaty reading a book. I wanted to talk on the phone with my mom and my friends for hours on end. I wanted to play tag and jump on the trampoline and dance until my muscles were weak. In short, I wanted to rest.

So, sick and exhausted, I have rested. Like, letting Little Bean paint my toenails multiple colors and layers. Letting her brush my hair. With lotion. Spa day, don'tcha know. We went shopping. Picnic at the park. Movies. TV. Went to the drive-in last weekend--didn't even get home until 5 AM. Shoot, three movies in a row, but they were kickass. Totally worth it. We'll probably go again tomorrow. It's totally my fifth favorite thing to do. Today, we went to the water park. Four hours in the sun. Great fun. I even remembered to put sunscreen on. Most of me. Ouch. Still. Great fun.

This weekend, I'm going to make homemade pizza and maybe cream puffs with custard and chocolate ganache and possibly also a strawberry margarita(s). I'm going to watch loads of movies and dance and then I'm going to do nothing. Like totally nothing. Just maybe staring. Eat. Watch. Stare.

And if I try really, really hard, I won't even feel anxious. I won't think about the story waiting to unfold. Or the emails stacking up. Or messages left unanswered. Or the conference I need to pack for. I won't think about anything at all.





******************

The winner of the signed A TOUCH MORTAL by Leah Clifford is

Alison M.

Congratulations, Alison! Please email me an address where I can send you your book. Thanks so much to all who entered the giveaway. I'll be having another one shortly.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Date with Luck

Edit:

In a huge oversight on my part, I neglected to mention...


Happy birthday, HOURGLASS!!

Congratulations, Myra on the release of your beautiful YA debut!

Hourglass is available today.

**********************

Dude.

The pictures below happened practically ages ago. And by ages, I mean only weeks. I'm still trying to catch up. Mostly. It seems I'm stacking up writerly functions. And then forgetting to blog about them. Makes me feel like a chump (especially since I will not get to all of them). In fact, since this event (pictured below), I've gone to even more events, which makes me feel like a bigger chump for being so behind.

Okay, so to catch you up (kind of). Ages ago (weeks), the fabulous Erica Chapman and I decided we'd make the trek back to Anderson's in Naperville (the indie bookstore I mentioned like a bazillion times now) a week after Veronica Roth's Divergent book launch at the same book store to attend another YA authors' book signing (3 1/2 hour drive). There was a special title for the event, but I'm not much good at remembering titles or names or dates or people's faces or my birthday. It had to do with luck, the title. But that's all I got.

Suffice it to say that there were some amazing authors there: Lisa and Laura Rocker (The Liar Society), Julia Karr (XVI), Leah Clifford (A Touch Mortal), Courtney Moulton (Angelfire), Sara Bennett Wealer (Rival), Sarah Rees Brennan (The Demon's Surrender), Saundra Mitchell (The Vespertine), and Christine Johnson (Claire de Lune) were all signing. Like us, Scott Tracey (Witch Eyes), Erica O'Rourke (Torn), and Loretta Nyhan were also there to support their author friends, and we all connected at some point in the evening. Every last one of them is a freaking superstar, by the way. I was wowed to even be in the same room. Talk about a special event to share with my sweetie peetie gal pal Erica C. Had so much fun with her, as always.

But, yeah, so Erica and I arrived a little late. Again. Don't be a hater, it happens to the best of us. It's not like I TRY to be late to these things. It's called arriving fashionably. Or something. I really need a personal assistant, FYI.

All the signing authors talked a bit before signing. They were all very funny and fun and awesome. 

DSC02627
From left, Christine Johnson, Julia Karr, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Saundra Mitchell






DSC02628
From left: Saundra Mitchell, Lisa Roecker, and Laura Roecker.
They're all looking to the side because I said, "Okay, everybody look to the right now." Not really.




DSC02630
From the left: Lisa, Laura, Leah Clifford in the cute yellow sweater, Courtney Moulton, and Sara Bennett-Wealer. There is also some woman's head up really close. Lovely shade of chestnut.




And here is Scott Tracey, first with Erica, then with me. He gave us some fabulous bookmarks for his YA novel, WITCH EYES.

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DSC02639



Here's a group photo. I won't label them all. I did that already, k?






 Here I am with Sara Bennet Wealer. She has the best laugh, and is so genuine and friendly. You can't help but smile when you're with her.




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And here we are with my favorite authorly sister duo, Lisa and Laura Roecker. So kind, these two. Beautiful inside and out.





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I'm not sure why we were laughing. But I think Scott Tracey was involved.






DSC02642
Here I am with Julia. We've met up loads of times now. I forgot to tell her I was coming. So when I walked in, she was like, DUUUUUUDE you are EVERYWHERE. Except she didn't say dude, but now I'm going to beg her to say it. That would be awesome. P.S. She's my all time favorite Julia. A truly amazing person.



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There was a gathering after the signing at a local pub. Bar? I don't know. I've been to this place twice, and I can't remember the name. Anyway, here we are with Loretta Nyhan. Such a sweetheart. One of those people that you wish you could miniaturize so you can carry them everywhere with you to take out when you need a hug except that would be creepy so you should probably just have them Facebook friend you.






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Finally, here I am with Leah. Who by the way, wins the award for superest cutest dress of the night. Also? You can totally tell how sweet she is just by looking at her. A dearheart, I tell you. A beautiful person.





I wish I had a picture with Erica O'Rourke. She was freaking funny and so so kind. She has a book coming out in July called TORN, which I'm really excited about.

Okay, that's it for pictures. I didn't use my camera nearly enough, and a few of these I stole from Erica (namely pictures 5, 8, 9, 11, and 12). I think this was the last signing I went to. But I'm headed to ALA's annual conference next week, at which there will be a boatload of signings. I'll try to make as many as I can (and then blog about it). I'm excited about everything except the New Orleans humidity. Yeah.

Try not to alarmed if my pictures look like this:

Fluffy_Head

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Celebration Thursday (With a Video!)

I don't have a review for you as scheduled today. My apologies. I'm a bit sick, and I just didn't have the energy to put into one. But  I've got several books I've read recently that I've loved and want to share with you. So I promise I'll return with one next week.

Meanwhile, some really awesome things have happened lately. So, yeah, let's celebrate that.

PossessionTuesday, fellow Bookanista Elana Johnson's YA dystopian debut POSSESSION was released into the wild for the first time. Can't tell you how excited we are to see her book now out there and in the hands of readers. Congratulations, Elana! So thrilled for you! Wishing you the greatest success!


Across the Universe


Now, earlier this year, one of our fellow Bookanistas accomplished something amazing when her YA novel ACROSS THE UNIVERSE debuted on the NYT Bestseller list. If you recall, we Bookanistas were so thrilled and proud of our fellow member that we decided to dance for her in celebration.

Did you miss it? You can see that post and our video for Beth Revis HERE.



Okay, so guess what? We've had another one of our members hit the NYT Bestseller list!
divergent

In case you haven't heard, Veronica Roth's YA dystopian DIVERGENT debuted at number six on the NYT Bestseller list! It's a major accomplishment, one we are so proud of that we felt the need to express our heartiest congratulations in video once again. But this time, instead of dancing, we decided to try something a little different.

In Veronica's dystopian world, society is divided up into five factions which represent a particular characteristic: Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, Amity, and Abnegation. To make our video, we each chose a faction that we felt best represented who were were (or who we wished to be) and reenacted that faction's primary characteristic.


So, sit back, and see how it all turned out. Everyone did something different. I wore a special costume. And I got a tattoo just for it.




Congratulations, Veronica! We are so proud of you!

I had some outtakes from my portion of the video, but I couldn't get my movie editor to work tonight, so my apologies. I couldn't post them. Maybe another day. It's just as well. I looked like an idiot. Err, like more of an idiot than just wearing a cape as a grown adult.


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Even though I didn't review today, a lot of the other Bookanistas did. See what the others are reviewing and highlighting today!

Bookanistas-logo-hisnhers
Elana Johnson and Stasia Ward Kehoe savor Bad Taste in Boys
LiLa Roecker celebrates The Summer of the Bear
Christine Fonseca has got a surprise for a Bookanista buddy (ooh—curious?)
Beth Revis interviews Blood Magic author Tessa Gratton
Jessi Kirby and Megan Miranda gush about Imaginary Girls
Bethany Wiggins is crazy about Delirium
Shana Silver sings praises for Starcrossed
Jen Hayley applauds Possession
Veronica Rossi hails Hereafter
Carrie Harris glories in Texas Gothic



****************************

One last bit of Super News! My friend Michele Shaw has recently signed with agent Karen Grencik of the Karen Grencik Literary Agency! So happy for Michele. The day she called to tell me she'd gotten her first offer, I ran around my house, jumping like a loon. She's worked so hard for this, and it heartens me to see something so great happen to someone so amazing. It's exciting to see someone get to the next step, isn't it? If you get a chance, I'd love it if you stopped by to check out Michele's blog and congratulate her. <3


Michele and me!

Congratulations, Michele!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Journey to Veronica Roth and Other Wild Adventures (with pictures)

Before I launch into a post, I just want to shout a hearty

Possession
CONGRATULATIONS
to Elana Johnson
on the launch of her YA debut
POSSESSION!!!

Available today!

So thrilled for you, Elana!

***************
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet up with one of the sweetest people in the world, writer and blogger Erica Chapman, someone I've gotten to know and adore, when we attended Veronica Roth's launch party for her debut NYT Bestseller DIVERGENT. If you've read my review of DIVERGENT, you already know how much and why I loved it. But meeting her also showed me how amazing Veronica is as a person. So friendly and welcoming, a truly humble, thoughtful, kind soul. I'm so glad to know her.

Now, getting to Veronica was quite the adventure. For one thing, Erica and I discovered we're practically the same person, and by the end of the trip we were finishing each other's sentences.

Hold on, let me backtrack. Okay, so Erica and I live many hours from one another, but it turns out somewhere near Chicago is like a good halfway point to meet up. So, we met up somewhere near Chicago, where I dropped off my car, and then Erica drove us the rest of the way to Anderson's (remember, the indie bookstore I mentioned?) in Naperville where the launch party was. At one point, we passed some domed building off the side of the highway (one of many sprinkled all over the place), and I said, "I wonder what those buildings are for?" And at exact same moment that I answered my own question with, "I bet that's where they keep the aliens," Erica says, "I  bet that's where they keep the dead people."

Soul mates, I tell you. Because it turns out those buildings are used to house the salt and road equipment or something boring like that.

There was also a bit of a story involving a missing iPod, which Erica had lost right before the trip and had scoured her house and car looking for it. It had even made her get to me a little late. So, we stop for fuel, and she says something like, "I really wish I knew where that iPod was." And I reach down beside my seat and pull this little black handheld up and say, "Could this be it?"

Awesome. Erica will now love me forever, and all I had to do was find her iPod.

So after arriving kind of late to Naperville and nearly throttling the loser who took our parking spot, we met the awesome Veronica.

DSC02467
Veronica didn't even act like it was weird when I apologized because my jacket had a funky smell on the sleeves. Which it does, and I totally didn't want her to think it was me, so I told her about it, knowing she might smell it when I put my arm around her, but the jacket was way too cute not to wear. This is why I love her, because she's smiling so big and happy even though my jacket smells funky.




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Here's Erica with us, too. We are so adorable.
And I say "we are adorable" lightly, because it's mostly just Erica and Veronica and my jacket.




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So after, we had a hilarious dinner involving BBQ sandwiches (recommended by the waiter), half of which I delicately spit into Erica's coleslaw (seriously, don't ask).

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Thereafter, we headed back to the place where I had left my car (somewhere near Chicago). And then proceeded to talk for two hours more in her parked car until, it turns out, we killed her battery.

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So, yeah, we totally had to Google how to jumpstart a car. And after a billion years of not being able to jump it, Erica finally called her husband and woke him up at 3 AM to get directions on how to jumpstart the car without exploding it.


And then I drove home in the middle of the night by myself, having to stop at Burger King at 5 AM just to kick my arse awake with a sausage biscuit. I also sang really, really loud because that would wake anyone up. Probably even the aliens and dead people. I do not have a picture of that. You're welcome.

**************

The winner of the Personalized Signed copy of MOONGLASS by Jessi Kirby is

Bookish in a Box

Congratulations!! Please email me your address so I can get you your book!

If you haven't done so yet, be sure to enter to win a Signed A TOUCH MORTAL by Leah Clifford! Giveaway ends tomorrow, June 7 at midnight EST. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Catharsis and Hope that Lies In Between Shades of Gray

It's after 2 AM and I still haven't written my review. I've just sat here, staring, wondering why the words won't come to me. I've said it before--the books I've loved most are the hardest to review. And that definitely holds true with this one. But there's another problem, I think. I really, really want you to read it. So it feels like there's a lot more riding on this. Which is stupid. All you have to do is look at the other reviews on this book and WHOA. How could you not pick it up, right? But okay, the thing is you'll probably say to yourself, eh...it's historical. And sad. And literary. Shiver. "I don't do sad books," you might say.

Err. Okay. Well.

Between Shades of Gray is a book that sticks with you. That leaves an imprint on your chest, burning for days after. This book can change you. So bear with me, okay?

Please let me find the words. Please.

 

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY

by Ruta Sepetys

between shades of gray

Summary: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

MY REVIEW

Often I try to relate the premises of books I review to typical occurrence in life. Bullying incidents, perhaps. Pants that split open, oversleeping and missing a test, the job that was given to someone else, et cetera. But how do you relate the premise of this story to anything in our lives today? How many know what it's like to have plans, like art school maybe and a cinnamon bun for breakfast, only to be ripped from home before the first bite and then loaded onto a packed cattle train, forced to lie in squalor and filth without food or a toilet for days? And then weeks. If you try to fight or run, you are killed. Maybe beaten up first and then shot brutally in the head. If you have family, you may be pulled from them. You may watch them die. All before you've had breakfast.

This was not an easy story to read. By chapter seven I was crying. And it had only just begun.

But imagine this life. Imagine the lives. This book is a story based on many stories. On real realities. On a history that has been denied and buried, lumped in with the rest of the skeletons in the closet. Sometimes we want to forget they exist. But there they remain, rattling, waiting to be heard. Ruta Sepetys has heard the rattling and has pulled the skeletons forth in the form of a YA novel. You can turn away from it, maybe pick up that one paranormal with the hot boy and the snappy dialogue that will crack you up. Or you can hold off on the paranormal for a day or two while you read Between Shades of Gray and cry along with me.

I know, I make it sound so enticing.

But you know what? Even if you're not from Lithuania, this is your history. It is a history of who we are and the pain that we can inflict on others. It is a history of humanity's inhumanity, of unadulterated fear and loathing and the abominable cry that goes unheard.

This story is beautiful, with a voice that carries you through. It is sometimes massive in scope, but often just the story of a girl in need. In love. In loss. In bravery. It is sometimes raw, sometimes poignant, sometimes funny. Sometimes eye opening and brutal for the things that fear and self-preservation can lead us to do to others. Though it's never really graphic, it is sometimes horrific, for the images that your own imagination can paint out of the words Lina is not saying. Of the things she does not necessarily know or understand.

But even in the horror, there is beauty and light, growth. A child maneuvering her way through murky adolescence to discover who she is, for even in the darkest of places, we will still long to know ourselves. In the midst of despair, there is still love and kindness. A spirit that cannot be broken. So for this, more than anything, Between Shades of Gray should be read. Are you looking for hope? You can find it here. You want to treasure the blessings in your life? You want to remember the true value and miracle of life and humanity--despite all the crap you must abide? Then read this book. You will come to understand that your existence is not hollow, that you are worthy of every breath you take. And in reading Lina's story, you can maybe even find that place of strength inside yourself, a place from which you can draw when you too are thrown into your own cattle train.

I fear history sometimes. If we're not careful, it can find it's way back to us in the form of repetition, of a new reality. So read this book. Read this book and weep with me. Feel the pain of our history. Hear the abominable cry and let it move you.

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Be sure to check out what the other Bookanistas are highlighting today:

Bookanistas_logo

Elana Johnson gushes over Blood Magic

LiLa Roecker adores Hourglass

Christine Fonseca sings high praises for Possess – with giveaway

Shannon Messenger applauds A Need So Beautiful – with giveaway

Megan Miranda has a passion for Possession

Bethany Wiggins finds Bad Taste in Boys delicious

Shana Silver celebrates A Need So Beautiful

Stasia Ward Kehoe delights in Delirium

Carrie Harris thinks Wrapped simply rocks

Rosemary Clement-Moore is giddy about Hourglass

Sarah Frances Hardy finds the awesome in Okay for Now

Myra McEntire welcomes Blood Magic author Tessa Gratton into the Fort

 

P.S. This is my 200th post. Go me!