Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Introducing the Banned Books Reading Challenge!

Censorship. A nasty word, a horrible concept, and yet it never goes away, does it? Especially in adolescent literature, authors who dare to write about serious or controversial topics are often slammed, shunned, and criticized. Earlier this month a teen lit festival in Texas disinvited bestselling YA author Ellen Hopkins because a handful of adults felt that she and her books are not appropriate literature for children. Last year I talked about an English teacher who got under fire because she used YA books as supplementary texts beside the regular English curriculum. Censorship, censorship, it comes and it goes, but it's always there.

Banned Books Week 2010 is coming up soon, between September 25 and October 2. However, we bloggers, lovers, readers, writers, and supporters of YA lit are going to make this bigger and better. Donna at Bites has put together a Ban This! celebration for the months of September and October, encouraging bloggers to link to their reviews of banned or challenged books, or otherwise feature them in some way or another on your blogs.

I come to you with another proposal: a community Banned Books Reading Challenge. I've contacted Donna and several bloggers who've done personal challenges of this sort and have their support for hosting this challenge. Please read on and consider participating if you want to help support freedom of information in YA literature and fight censorship!

The Banned Books Reading Challenge 2010

Goals of This Challenge:
  • To bring attention to books that have been challenged or banned
  • To support authors whose freedom of expression have been questioned or challenged by buying and reading their books
  • To increase awareness of censorship

The best way to fight censorship is to do what these challengers rarely do, and that is to READ the books that have been challenged and educate ourselves on their content and impact on our society!

  • The challenge will run from September 1, 2010 to October 15, 2010.
  • The challenge is open to any reader with an online blogging platform who'd like to participate.
  • I personally will devote my attention towards mostly YA literature challenged within the last decade, but you are welcome to any books of your choosing, from challenged picture books (there are a lot of them) to frequently banned classics.
  • I will make it my goal to read at least 7 challenged or banned books (one for each day of Banned Books Week), but you are welcome to read less or more.

  1. You must create a main post on your own blog where you state your intention to take part in this challenge, a tentative goal, and link back to this post. This main post will be where you link to your reviews of the banned or challenged books you've read, or to otherwise talk about issues revolving around book challenges, censorship, and more.
  2. I highly encourage you to visit one another's blogs and to support one another via comments and spreading the word. The more people we can get to read challenged and banned books, the more we are learning and the more we are proving to the handful of adults who feel like they have the right to say what kids and teens can or can't read that they do not have the power to hold us down!


As this is the first time I'm hosting a challenge, please bear with me if things do not go as smoothly as we'd like. If you have any questions or suggestions, or if you'd like to contributed to the Banned Books Reading Challenge via a guest post, button, or giveaway, please email me at stephxsu at gmail dot com. I'll be happy to hear from you!

Sign up below. Please use the format
Your name: Name/Alias (Blog Name in parentheses)
Your URL: the URL of your sign-up post!

Good luck and have fun! :)

[ETA 9/7/10] Due to a lack of knowledge on my part, I have unfortunately negated the code for the first sign-up Mr. Linky. :( You can click above to see those of you who've already signed up. For anyone who wants to continue signing up, please use the widget below, following the same format. This does not meet that you have to sign up again if you already did so! Your link is still above, if you click forward to another page. Sorry about this! I now know better for next time. :(

Review: Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

Tags: YA, paranormal, immortality, evil


For the past 100 years, Nastasya has gallivanted around the world with her other party-happy immortal friends, enjoying life and not thinking of anything besides entertainment and distraction. But when her best friend does something that horrifies her and shakes the foundations of her belief about her existence, Nastasya runs away from her old life and joins up with a group of immortals who try to live to be good.

However, it isn’t easy for Nastasya to adjust to her new life. She doesn’t know what to make of her new acquaintances, particularly Reyn, a cold but inexplicably alluring golden-haired guy, and Nell, a preppy British girl who seems to have it in for her. And the more Nastasya learns about the history of immortals and her own, long dormant magickal abilities, the more she begins to understand the truth about her past…and how it may endanger her.


Is it weird that I’m wavering whether to give this book 3 or 5 stars, and not something in between? (4-star books are my babies and not given out lightly. *hugs*) IMMORTAL BELOVED really did something for me. I lament the repetition in paranormal literature nowadays, but while immortality is not news, the careful way in which Cate Tiernan layered this story is something to take note of.

Tiernan incorporates flashbacks into the narrative in a way that doesn’t feel forced. At first we think we know what the smart-mouthed Nastasya is about: oh, just another poor little tortured soul of an immortal being who’s lost sight of her humanity until she meets the right person, or people. But the more time I spent with Nastasya, the more compelling I found her. Yes, she’s fallen into some despicable times and habits, but her flashbacks reveal her behavior to be a perfectly justifiable defense mechanism against some horrible memories. The flashbacks serve not only to illuminate her character, but also to add a sliver of suspense and investment with every page we read, so that while in the foreground nothing truly remarkable happens—Nastasya runs around a farm for reformed immortals and struggles to adjust to their ways—we can’t help but be sucked in.

Nastasya reminds me of some of my favorite paranormal/urban fantasy female characters: strong, a wiseass, independent enough not to obsess over Reyn, despite his sullen bad-boy hotness. She’s attractive because she refuses to play the “docile, hurt female” role expected of her, and so I can see why Reyn is attracted to her (thank God for the absence of inexplicable paranormal romantic attraction!).

IMMORTAL BELOVED is admittedly slow, especially if you feel like flashbacks are a cop-out from true plot. However, the characters have convinced me of their interestingness, and Nastasya has secured my empathy and respect, so I will be really interested to see where Cate Tiernan takes us next. IMMORTAL BELOVED just might remind us paranormal lit cynics (yes, that’s me) that good writing and strong, well-developed characters can still take us all the way.

Similar Authors
Stephenie Meyer
Jeri Smith-Ready
Alison Goodman

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - I suppose some people consider the vagueness of this type of cover pretty, but... eh.

Little, Brown / Sept. 7, 2010 / Hardcover / 407pp. / $16.99

ARC received from Around the World Tours.

Monday, August 30, 2010

PAYA Festival

So last Saturday, I had the great fortune of attending the PAYA Festival, a YA lit event organized by the incredible Skyanne of Harmony Book Reviews. PAYA is an acronym for "Bringing YA 2 PA," which raises money and collects YA book donations for Pennsylvania public libraries. It was held in West Chester, PA, which was about 30 minutes away from me. As we've almost never had a large, multi-author YA event in Pennsylvania, I was really excited to be a part of this one!

I arrived a little before 9AM to help Skyanne set up. We drew signs leading up to the obscure little building--in the picture you see Skyanne hard at work setting up a sign!--and then I drew lots of signs and labels for the rooms inside. From 10-12, I attended a writing workshop with the authors Jon Skovron, Josh Berk, Stephanie Kuehnert, Jeri Smith-Ready, Amy Brecount-White, and Shannon Delany (am I missing anyone? I really really really hope not!). Each author shared their experience with one aspect of the writing process, from writing REALLY crappy rough drafts to working with the entire editorial and publishing team to make your book amazing. For the second hour, we divided up into two groups of authors and aspiring writers, and each of us aspiring writers got to have a page or two of our WIPs verbally critiqued by the authors!
New books on sale for the author signings.
The raffles table.
It was exciting to see the new books to be sold being set up by Children's Book World, as well as people looking at the basket raffles full of amazing goodies, and the used book sales. 1-3 was the author signing! I'm sad to say that I did not get very many books signed, as I was low on money. However, it was so great to see how BUSY the event was! For a first-time event, with a location that was a little difficult to find, I was really happy with the crowd we had drawn.

Some of the authors who came to the event, with Skyanne in the middle!
I especially had a wonderful time meeting all the bloggers who had gone! I got to see again Skyanne of Harmony Book Reviews (of course), Kristi of The Story Siren, and James of Book Chic. I especially loved meeting new bloggers though. I met and got to talk to Anne of Potter, Percy, and I, a 12-year-old blogger who came with her mom; Caitlin of Scarrlet Reader (she and her mom actually came down from basically near my hometown in North Jersey--stupid Jersey Turnpike traffic!); Jenn of Book Crazy and her daughter; Jamie of Broke and Bookish and Perpetual Pageturner; Christina of Confessions of a Book Addict; and oh gosh I know there are quite a few more but my mind is blaaaaaaaaaanking, so if I missed you please leave me a comment and I will link to you!
A small sampling of bloggers: Chelsea (The Page Flipper), me, Kristi (Story Siren), Skyanne, and James (Book Chic).
Anyway, overall it was fantastic turnout with such a positive, happy, and supportive atmosphere. A special thanks to Skyanne for organizing everything, Children's Book World for supplying us with books to buy for the signings, the various people who contributed to the raffles and book sales, and last but not least, the authors who were the only reason this event was possible. Let's hope that PAYA Festivals in years to come will only get bigger and better from here! (They have a lot to live up to.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Tags: YA, paranormal, romance


The day Isobel’s life starts unraveling is the day she gets paired with Varen Nethers for an English project. Imagine: she, a pretty, popular cheerleader having to spend time with the most sullen, mysterious, and depressing freak in school!

The more time Isobel spends with Varen, however, the more intriguing she finds him. He is a talented writer who hides himself behind a thick wall all the time. Isobel knows there is more to him than his cold exterior, but her old friends and possessive boyfriend do NOT like her spending time with Varen. As things head towards a tense climax, Isobel has to figure out how to save Varen before he is lost completely to a dark world that Isobel has never known before.


I’m not sure what to think about this ambitious debut novel. On the one hand, NEVERMORE is a chillingly intriguing exploration of the psychological changes undergone when two opposites cross paths. On the other, it is all too often plodding, frustrating, and melodramatic.

Good things first: the characters in NEVERMORE are quite unlike most YA characters I’ve read, particularly Varen. He is aloof without being arrogant, reserved without seeming hopelessly depressed. His appeal lies in these things: in a sense, he has all the appeal of a stereotypical bad boy, but his “badness” is in being so-called freakish and socially distant. And that made for a very nice combination. I always looked forward to Isobel and Varen’s interactions, because they were full of the bittersweet subtleties that real relationships are about, and not the usual insta-attraction wish fulfillment that usually abounds in YA lit.

Unfortunately, NEVERMORE felt a bit shaky for me for several reasons. I found it difficult to place Isobel: she’s not technically a nice person (as evidenced by her initial interactions with Varen), and yet she’s not convincingly mean, either. YA novelists such as Courtney Summers and Lauren Oliver have successfully proven that even mean girls can be sympathetic protagonists. And while most of the other characters are convincingly rich enough in their roles, whether major or minor, I would have liked to see more definition from Isobel. As of now she just feels like a fairly generic protagonist to me.

Likewise, I felt that the paranormal elements of NEVERMORE were not as strong as the contemporary, psychological aspects. It seems like a bit of a stretch right now to believe Isobel and Varen’s involvement with a whole other world. Nevertheless, NEVERMORE is definitely the first book in a series, and I’d be interested to see what the promising author Kelly Creagh does in the sequel. I would definitely love to see more development of the other world and integration with “our” world.

Similar Authors
Lois Duncan
Cyn Balog
Nina Malkin
Kirsten Miller
Kimberly Derting

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - The more I look at that cover, the more I like it. The models look exactly like how I pictured the characters in my mind, and Isobel's pink dress plays a key role in the story.

Atheneum / Aug. 31, 2010 / Hardcover / 560pp. / $17.99

ARC sent by author/S&S for review.

In My Mailbox (44)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme inspired by Alea and hosted by Kristi. Check out Kristi's post to see what others got in terms of books this week!

So this is, like, two, three weeks' worth of books?


For Review:
John Belushi is Dead by Kathy Charles
Empty by Suzanne Weyn
Skeleton Creek, Book 3: The Crossbones by Patrick Carman
When I Was Joe by Keren David
It's a Book by Lane Smith
Hush by Eishes Chayil

From Around the World Tours:
Tutored by Allison Whittenberg
Freefall by Mindi Scott

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
Kiss Me Deadly by various authors
The Agency, Book 2: The Body at the Tower by Y. S. Lee
Bring on the Night (WVMP Radio, Book 3) by Jeri Smith-Ready
Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn
The Stolen Child by Keith Donoghue
Midnight's Daughter (Dorina Basarab, Dhampir, Book 1) by Karen Chance
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Be With Me by Maya Banks
Captive Hearts Vol. 1 by Matsuri Hino
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta
Colters' Woman by Maya Banks
The Hunchback Assignments by David Slade
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Stranded by J. T. Dutton

Friday, August 27, 2010

Life After Mockingjay: Fall Books to Look Out For

Now that arguably the most highly anticipated book of 2010 has been released and, for a large part, devoured, the question turns to... what do we look forward to now? Which upcoming books would be worthy of our high standards for literature?

Luckily, I've read a few fall releases in a range of genres that I'm an evangelist for. Here are some that you should definitely keep an eye on, whether online or in stores in the next few weeks or months:

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger
(Little, Brown / Sept. 7, 2010)

One-sentence summary: Bianca Piper feels inadequate next to her beautiful best friends, and so she starts hooking up with Wesley, whom she hates, only to discover that she might not hate him after all.

Why I Love It: I had the extraordinary fortune of reading this back in May, around BEA. I say extraordinary because this book deserves the label: it's edgy, in your face, and sexy in a way that the latest generation of teen readers will respect and appreciate. Definitely not for the innocent and pure, but powerful and relatable to others. Best of all, it comes out real soon!

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
(Little, Brown / Nov. 2, 2010)

One-sentence summary: With her friends' support, Alex approaches the secret student justice society at her prestigious boarding school after she is date-raped.

Why I Love It: Sexual assault awareness and prevention is something I care very deeply about, and Daisy Whitney presents this tough issue in a way that is straightforward and gut-wrenching. I cried throughout, and put the book down at the end with an enormous sense of empowerment and the motivation to go out in the world and make a difference. Now that's what I call powerful.

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / Oct. 18, 2010)

One-sentence summary: Death visits anorexic Lisabeth and informs her that she is the next Famine, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Why I Love It: It has the mythic "vastness" of a fairy tale in its narrative style, with the too-real contemporary issues of eating disorders and body image. This is urban fantasy author Jackie Kessler's first YA book, and her UF skill of weaving a thoroughly convincing alternate world along with the movement of her storytelling is apparent through Hunger. Plus, there's a wise-cracking Death who's like the guy your mother told you you should never date. What's not to like?

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
(Razorbill / Sept. 21, 2010)

One-sentence summary: Mackie Doyle is a changeling who is forced to deal with his "heritage" when his classmate's baby sister dies.

Why I Love It: A fan of Maggie Stiefvater's beautiful writing? Holly Black's dark and crazy imagination? Then you may enjoy Brenna Yovanoff's debut novel. It's not perfect, but I was enthralled by her way with words, and the way she set up Mackie's mindset and the quietly creepy, Tim Burton-esque world that is the town of Gentry. Well worth your time!

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan
(Little, Brown / Sept. 7, 2010)

One-sentence summary: Nastasya is an immortal who is tired of her meaningless partying life, and so she goes to a "reform farm" for immortals, where she realizes big things about her past and her future potential to be a good vs. evil immortal.

Why I Love It: I have had paranormal overload for a while now, but this is this genre done right. A snappy, disenchanted, irreverent protagonist; elaborate world-building with flashbacks that are not awkwardly placed in the narrative but that actually contribute to building suspense; and a hot-hot-hot forbidden romance. I devoured this in one sitting. It's not fantastic literature or anything, but I was still duly impressed, and am going to read the second book when it comes out.


Now it's your turn! Have you read any great ARCs you're raving about, or are there are fall titles you're waiting anxiously on?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (79)

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price? [summary from Goodreads]

I've heard fantastic things about this book, and it sounds like it could have similar vibes and themes to Stolen by Lucy Christopher: the kidnapping scenario, the power dynamics between the two, the main character's struggle to maintain her identity. Oh, and it's with a blind girl. I'm fascinated to see how descriptions will be done. Very excited about this one!

Girl, Stolen will be released in hardcover by Henry Holt & Co. on September 28, 2010.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happy Mockingjay Release Day! A Playlist

At this moment in time my friend and I should be in the process of getting our copies of Mockingjay at the Children's Book World midnight party (if you're near the area, it'd be really cool to run into you there!). We will then proceed to drive home and stay up all night reading it. (It's even funnier, and more impressive, when you consider the fact that he only read the series for the first time a week ago.) For everyone else...


I hope you've gotten your own copies or will be getting them soon. I intend to stay offline until Mockingjay is finished--won't be too hard. In the meantime, I'm sure there are plenty of Mockingjay-related celebrations both on- and off-line. I want to highlight something that Lenore is doing: playlists for each of the main characters of The Hunger Games. She asked for my contributions for one of the playlists, and I rummaged through my iTunes and came up with... a playlist of my own. I welcome you to check it out if you like to find new music, or just to have something playing in the background as you do other stuff.

Rationale for playlist content: For The Hunger Games, I wanted to look for music with lyrics that spoke of discontent, rebellion, action, oppression, and similar topics. I looked for music in mostly minor keys, with a driving beat that was strong and insistent but not frenetic (okay, Khy, I'm waiting for your comment now). And I especially wanted songs sung by females. The songs below aren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination--if I were compiling the soundtrack for the actual movie I'd search a lot more--but it makes for a pretty decent playlist, at least for me, I think.

Youtube Playlist embedded at bottom.

Part 1 - Book 1: The Hunger Games

1. Carolina Liar - "Something to Die For"

Won't you see it in your heart, you should
Know you always played your part real good, oh yeah
That's something to die for

Scene: post-reaping, the train ride from District 12 to the Capitol

Rationale: The singer's voice is high, almost plaintive, with just the right hint of desperation, denial, and rebellion. I felt like this was appropriate for Katniss' mindset at this point: she's just left her family behind, for what she believes is forever, and she is dreading what will come next.

2. Muse - "Resistance"

Is our secret safe tonight
And are we out of sight
Or will our world come tumbling down?
Will they find our hiding place
Is this our last embrace
Or will the walls start caving in?

Scene: the chariot ride

Rationale: I feel like this would add the right note of darkness and grimness to what the Capitol believes is a happy scene, the scene where Katniss and Peeta ride through the streets with their dazzling costumes. While everything looks like it's fine--everyone's smiling, waving, cheering--the dark energy of this song brings the needed anger to the surface.

3. Hard-Fi - "Stronger"

You dish it out, I'll take it in
I can only grow from the lies you spin
If you're not scared then you should be
Nothin' in the world will keep you from me

Scene: group training

Rationale: A more upbeat, still minor-key song with determined vocals for the days that Katniss & Co. spend learning skills at the various stations in the training room. This song says, "Work and perseverance" to me.

4. Hard-Fi - "I Shall Overcome"

I look around, nothing seems to have changed,
This dirty town, it hasn't somehow rearranged

But you say "Hold on, hold on... believe me,
All the plans against you one by one, will come undone."
I shall overcome.

Scene: private training session with the Gamemakers

Rationale: Playing as Katniss shoots The Arrow and gets the Gamemakers' attention. Also has a strong beat, but the melody is more serious, more determined than #3. Just like how Katniss gets the Gamemakers' attention here, so the song brings attention to the fact that Katniss just might have what it takes to defeat the Capitol and their manipulative Games.

5. Liz Phair - "Firewalker"

Me, I'm like a wild flame that catches on whatever's near but
Your mind is a firewalker, it sets its course and never veers but
I can grow in spite of all you know
You might not recognize me tomorrow

Scene: Katniss, the girl on fire at the interview

Rationale: Because, um, did you see that song title? This slower, melancholic melody evokes for me a girl with her head held high in spite of all obstacles. She's an object of desire--the lyrics and the wanderings of the melody do that for me--slightly enigmatic and detached from the rest of the world. Very influential.

6. Muse - "Falling Away With You"

so I'll love whatever you become
and forget the reckless things we've done
I think our lives have just begun

and I'll feel my world crumbling
I'll feel my life crumbling

Scene: rising up to the arena

Rationale: This song starts out quietly, almost contemplatively, but then evolves into a rich and plaintive cry. The ascending notes in the chorus remind me of the way the tributes rise up to the arena via the metal plates. And the lyrics mention what Peeta is concerned about, and what Katniss is only beginning to understand: the possible loss of humanity, loss of self-identity, out there in the arena.

7. The Perishers - "Let There Be Morning"

I don't know how
I made it till now
Let there be light
Let there be morning

Hello future goodbye past
Now each breath can be my last
Will I see another dawn?
Will I be reborn?

Scene: nights in trees

Rationale: This song is sad and slow, resigned in a way. As a tribute, how do you know if you're going to make it through the night, make it through another day? I can hear this as montage music as Katniss straps herself into a tree at night, watches the faces of her fellow tributes pass overhead, and falls into a restless, worried sleep.

8. Cavo - "We All Fall Down"

Everything is random, everyone is fake
Everything we built will just disintegrate
No one will remember, would anybody care
If everything around us just disappeared?

Scene: running away from the wall of fire

Rationale: The fast rock beat reminds me of the running, but the singer's resonant voice and the motion of the melody focuses the terror of that situation into determination to evade the fire, instead of the scene just dissolving into a quivering mass of fear.

9. Something Corporate - "Only Ashes"

I can tell as you turn, I smell the sulfur so clear
and fire's a beautiful sound-
and the wings that you burn, turn to ashes my dear
and ashes just fall to the ground.

Scene: tracker jackers

Rationale: The lyrics talk about fire, but the repetitive strumming of the bass and guitar remind me more of the chaos that follows after Katniss drops the tracker jackers on the Careers.

10. Mute Math - "Chaos"

It’s hard to trust anyone again
after all the let downs I’ve been through,
haunted by what I’ve been through.

I know you stay true when my world is false
everything around’s breaking down to chaos

Scene: running with Rue

Rationale: I can hear this playing as Katniss and Rue meet up, move through the forest together (in the trees, maybe?), and make their plans to destroy the Careers' food and supplies. The bass line wanders but has lots of energy, suggesting a playful or young attitude, and the singer's voice, always bordering on cracking as he slams into his words, evoke a young person's vocalization of their frustrations.

11. Thriving Ivory - "Angels on the Moon"

I wanna sunburn, just to know that I'm alive
Don't tell me if I'm dying
'Cause I don't wanna know

Scene: after Rue's death

Rationale: The singer of this power ballad has a plaintive, tortured voice. That, combined with the lyrics, has me finding this song appropriate for Katniss' unvoiceable grief over Rue's death. The best way she can mourn her little friend's death is by ploughing forward and giving the Games her all.

12. Thriving Ivory - "Where We Belong"

See I have to believe that there's more than this seems
More than a soul in a boat in a sea of sinking dreams
And I have to be sure that there's gonna be a cure
'cause somewhere down the line, I lost that part of me that's pure.

Hold on we're gonna make it if takes all night
Hearts racing like a rocket at the speed of light
Don't fight it we've been running for far too long
We're going back to where we belong

Scene: finding Peeta

Rationale: I needed a solid, not quite hopeful but not entirely hopeless song for a search montage. I like how the lyrics reflect Katniss' disbelief over her own survival, coupled with her newfound hope now that the Gamemakers have changed the rules.

13. The Perishers - "Still Here"

When you’ve fired your last shot
You’ll come back for me

When you’ve gone I’m still here
I know you’ll come around
I’m waiting patiently
When you’ve tried all other ways
You’ll come back for me

Scene: Peeta and Katniss in the cave

Rationale: I think of this as Peeta's song for Katniss. Did you read the lyrics? It's a love song, but the singer's throatiness lends a bit of sarcasm and frustration to the song that I think illustrates the conflicted feelings going on between and within Katniss and Peeta in that cave.

14. New Pornographers - "Challengers"

On the walls of the day
In the shade of the sun
We wrote down
Another vision of us
We were the challengers of
The unknown

Scene: the final hovercraft ride

Rationale: I see this playing in the crazy scene within the hovercraft, as Katniss screams for Peeta as he is taken away from her. This song has few instrumentation and an almost whimsical feel... in a sad way. I think it really brings out the horror of the whole Hunger Games, of all the emotional and physical stress that these teens had to endure, for such a horrifying reason.

15. Arcade Fire - "Rebellion (Lies)"

Sleeping is giving in, no matter what the time is
Sleeping is giving in, so lift those heavy eyelids.
people say that you'll die faster than without water
but we know it's just a lie, scare your son and scare your daughter

Scene: end credits

Rationale: It's a song with a lot of energy and power behind it, without getting too crazy. For me, this wraps up the mental/emotional state that I feel at the end of the book: interested, hooked, pro-revolution.

Book 2: Catching Fire

16. Brandi Carlile - "I Will"

I don't think you ever learned a thing from me
But I'm sure that you want me to learn from you

You can't break a heart that wasn't even yours to break
You can never be there for me in the end
But I will do the right thing

Scene: Katniss and Peeta in the Victor's Village

Rationale: Thwarted love, man! Who knows what is real and what was put on as a show for the Capitol? Can a love still be true if it's documented for millions to see? Brandi Carlile's voice captures the angst and hurt between these two people, as they struggle to figure out their feelings for one another after the Hunger Games.

17. Muse - "Unnatural Selection"

They'll laugh as they watch us fall
The lucky don't care at all

I'm hungry for some unrest
I want to push this beyond a peaceful protest
I wanna speak in a language that they'll understand

Scene: the Victory Tour

Rationale: Something that the Capitol intends to be a celebration turns out to incite rebellion. It's clear that the front Peeta and Katniss are forced to put up does not convince everyone, that the dissatisfaction and cries for revolution are already in place.

18. Missy Higgins - "Nightminds"

And in our honesty, together we will rise,
Out of our nightminds, and into the light

Scene: Gale and Katniss at the lake

Rationale: Missy Higgins has a full, honest voice. This ballad is full of unfulfilled longing, which I think really reflects the impossibility of Katniss and Gale's plans at this moment.

19. Michelle Branch - "It's You"

If tomorrow never comes
I would want just one thing
I would tell it to the stars and the sun
I would write it for the world to see
And it's you

Scene: watching over Gale's whipped body

Rationale: Similar to the "Nightminds" song. Once again, Katniss realizes too late how she might feel about Gale. Now she's already caught up in the Capitol's games, Gale's hurt and threatened, and she has all this suppressed frustration, fear, and dispair within her.

20. Train - "Calling All Angels"

I need a sign to let me know you're here
All of these lines are being crossed over the atmosphere
I need to know that things are gonna look up
'Cause I feel us drowning in a sea spilled from a cup

Scene: District 12 takeover

Rationale: A great song to express the frustration, simmering rebellion, hatred, and determination brewing within Katniss' mind as she is forced to witness Romulus Thread's takeover of District 12. A very deliberate beat, in a hopeful major key, and the singer's voice is a great blend of strength and pleading.

21. Lesley Roy - "I'm Gone, I'm Going"

I'm like a rat in a cage about to lose it all
And I ain't gonna give up until I'm standing tall
I'm gonna throw it all in
Just get it over with
Watch me, watch me

So sick of falling apart and crawling back again
So sick of playing the games that I can never win

Scene/Rationale: I forget--it's too close to midnight, I'm losing my ability to think coherently within going into fangirl zone. Suffice it to say that this might be the most upbeat, most "poppish" of the songs on this playlist. But I love how this just shouts female empowerment, and the lyrics are also about overcoming adversity and constraints. This says "Katniss taking a stand" to me.


That's where I stopped in Catching Fire cuz I found all these songs in one go and never went back to it when I realized the songs could be spread out over the two books. Here is the playlist:

You can also go to its Youtube page here. This has been basically what I've been playing nonstop for the past week (again, like all my other Mockingjay posts, this was not influenced by anyone else, except by Lenore asking me to help her out: all of these songs came out of my head alone). If you're in the mood to experience new music while reading, say, a dystopian novel or something, give this a try and let me know what you think! I'd also LOVE for you to give me some songs that remind YOU of The Hunger Games!

Happy reading; may the odds be ever in your favor!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Review: 13 to Life by Shannon Delany

Tags: YA, paranormal, werewolves


Budding journalist Jess Gillmansen gets assigned to be the tour guide for the new boy at Junction High, the mysterious and hot Pietr Rusakova. Pietr infuriates Jess, but she finds that she cannot stay away from him, even though she knows he’s hiding something from her. The closer Jess gets to Pietr, however, the more she will begin to be involved in a world that she can hardly even imagine.


Shannon Delany’s 13 TO LIFE introduces nothing new to the heavily saturated paranormal romance YA department, but fans of this genre will find in it a likably strong protagonist and a mystery that’s worth reading more about.

The main character, Jess, is a respectably strong character with a healthy dose of common sense and independence, traits that are, sadly, sorely lacking in numerous other books in this genre. I could understand her martyr-like behavior, her attempt to stay away from Pietr for her friend’s sake even though neither of them can deny their attraction to each other. Jess puts on a tough front to hide old hurts, which I could sympathize with. It made me side with her through frustrating decisions or bad attitudes.

Backstory, however, was shaky at best. Jess’ journalist interest in wolf attacks in a nearby town felt forced: I wanted to know more about her interest in the matter, because I never like when something feels placed into the story simply to clue us, the reader, into something the protagonist hasn’t figured out yet. (For the record, this is a werewolf book. There. I’m not ruining anything by telling you that.) There was also an enigmatic tension between Jess and a friend of hers that, once again, felt rather unnatural. It has a lot of potential to explode into an emotional scenario, and so I hope that in the future Shannon Delany will build on that.

For the most part, 13 TO LIFE felt like a long setup for a series. Very little happens until the last 15 or so pages, and once again it felt very contrived. If you’re looking for a quick paranormal romance that doesn’t require too much thought, 13 TO LIFE might intrigue you. Otherwise, you’ll just catch yourself borderline rolling your eyes at the amateur writing tropes used throughout this debut.

Similar Authors
Christine Johnson (Claire de Lune)
Andrea Cremer (Nightshade)
Maggie Stiefvater
Kimberly Derting (The Body Finder)

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 2/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - I like the blue tones, and the design running down the left side, but otherwise the eye and the model's silhouette tell me nothing.

St. Martin's Press / June 22, 2010 / Paperback / 320pp. / $9.99

Offered by publisher for review.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How Might Mockingjay End?

I generally don't spend a lot of time speculating beyond what the author has provided for us. Spin-offs, companion novels, "guide to's", fanfiction... I generally don't do any of that. But with talks of Mockingjay around EVERYWHERE, I couldn't help but think, you know? I've been thinking about this more or less for the past year or so, and with less than a week to go before Mockingjay's release, I figured I might as well talk about my theories a little.

If that's totally not the type of conversations you like to engage in, you're better off not reading this post. And this post assumes that you've read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Okay! So.

When I think about how Mockingjay might end, I don't even try to think about the revolution part, except for generalized HEAs. I have no doubt that Suzanne Collins will astound and impress me with the complexity of the resolution, and I can't wait to find out how it's going to happen. But there is something we all like to speculate on: how in the world will the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale end? A truly important question, folks.

Right. Well, maybe not important, but definitely fun to talk and speculate about.

The way I see it, there are five possible endings to the love triangle:

1. The Romantic - The Capitol is overthrown and a new era of peace and cooperation among the Districts begins. Gale and Katniss get together. And Peeta survives to become the new voice and leader of the next generation, acquiescing that it was only due to unnatural circumstances (i.e. the Hunger Games) that Katniss had feelings for him. That way, Gale and Katniss' years' worth of unresolved not-quite-as-platonic-as-they'd-like-to-think relationship evolves, AND Peeta doesn't have a death wish and can find a satisfying future as well.

2. The Pragmatic - Gale dies in the midst of rebellion, or is in some way or other removed from the triangle, and while Katniss is devastated with grief, she realizes that, by Peeta's side, the two of them can help to transform the post-revolutionary nation, and Gale's death will not have been in vain. Depressing for both Team Gale fans and Katniss (I still maintain she has had deep feelings for Gale), and decidedly unromantic... but still livable and even hopeful.

3. The Tragic - Peeta dies, perhaps in some horribly shocking, Sirius Black- or Albus Dumbledore-esque way, perhaps right in front of Katniss, at the hands of President Snow in the despicable man's last jab to devastate Katniss. Gale and Katniss naturally get together, of course. But poor Peeta. He suffers through the entire series and nothing EVER works out in his favor. God, I'm getting depressed. I need to go eat something happy-making now.

4. The Heroic - Katniss dies in a powerful symbolic death at the very end of Mockingjay, effectively ending the narration, of course, but the story is already in a position where we can see how Katniss' sacrifice will pave the way to a better and brighter tomorrow.

5. The Insane - Both Peeta and Gale die. Katniss is forced to have a clean slate. WHY, GOD, WHY? *depressed*


Which of these would you prefer as the ending to Mockingjay? Which do you think will most likely occur? Do you have other ideas?

And now, just for fun, some images that come up when you GoogleImage "Team Peeta/Gale":

So much win. So much. In a, y'know, endearing way.

Yo, who's the Peeta on the left? I could totally see him as Peeta. (And if that's Alex Pettyfer then I change my mind. Alex has gotten too...manly. I picture Peeta as having almost a baby face: very kind features.) That's not how I picture Gale though.

Or how about this "Peeta vs. Gale: How's a Girl to Choose?" t-shirts from Zazzle.ca? Maybe Mockingjay will be the first YA book to condone multiple-person marriage?

LOL. The greatest debate. Haha. That is debatable. Although understandable why people (including me) would think or say that.


[ETA] Some bloggers have brought to my attention that Twitter conversations and other blog posts regarding Mockingjay predictions have occurred within the last few weeks. I wanted to clarify that I was not involved in any Twitter conversations discussing possible Mockingjay endings, and have not read others' posts regarding the subject. I was not aware that these things have been happening. These theories in this post have spouted completely from my mind, and I do my best to ALWAYS give credit to inspirations or thought provokers if my writing about something was sparked by their writing. If you'd like me to link to your Mockingjay prediction post, I'd be happy to do so. Please email me at stephxsu at gmail dot com.


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