Tag Archives: YA

Bitterblue Review by Kirstin Cashore

14 Oct

I just finished Bitterblue by Kirstin Cashore only five minutes ago (quite literally) and felt an overwhelming need to blog about it, and so here I am. I haven’t read a book in a good long while that compelled me the way Bitterblue did. Evidence being the fact that my last book review was posted in February… dear lord February! I didn’t realize it was that long!

NOTE: This review contains no to very minor spoilers.

Anyway, to begin this book review:

Bitterblue is the third book published by Kirstin Cashore and serves as the sequel to her first novel Graceling and a companion to her second novel Fire (confusing in text, but once you read it you understand). I’ve been following this ‘series’ if you can call it that since it came out, and absolutely ADORED it. Fire, in fact is one of my favorite novels of all time (despite what others may say) and when I found out that Bitterblue was hitting the shelves i was ecstatic!

That means it had a lot to live up to. To summarize without spoilers, Bitterblue is about Queen Bitterblue who we originally meet in Graceling as a little girl. The novel is about her reign as an emerging Queen and patching up the deranged mess her Graceling tyrant of a father left behind (Leck, who is the antagonist in both Graceling, and Fire, and whose conflicts survive even after his death into Bitterblue which is set after both Graceling in Fire{chronologically they fall: FIRE, GRACELING, BITTER BLUE. Despite their publication date of GRACELING, FIRE, BITTERBLUE})

As you can see Cashore constructs a rather confusing time line. Regardless, I found Bitterblue absolutely astounding! (but for entirely different reasons than Graceling or Fire). Both Graceling and Fire are books with a lot of political crime, adventure, and romance (Graceling most heavily romantic, followed by Fire, and Bitterblue coming last). As many of you know Cashore takes very new aged stances on romantic relationships with her almost clear opposition to marriage and a rather loose view of sexuality, while Bitterblue contained some of this it was much lighter than in Fire and Graceling.

Most of Bitterblue’s plot centered around the disturbing puzzles and qualms that Bitterblue uncovers about Leck. This book showcases the fact that the entire series really centers around Leck (and understanding his past and present). A lot of the material was rather dark, and thankfully (or perhaps unforgivingly) uncluttered with the distraction of a graced/non-human narrator or the heavy romance that was present in both of its predecessors.

And the fact that Bitterblue was 100% human made this novel that much more chilling. Bitterblue is surrounded by things and people she can’t even begin to understand, least of all her deceased, graced, and mad father Leck. Everywhere she looks she sees his influence and the influence of those who were merely pawns on his board of players. Things in her castle are confusing enough without having to deal with her top adviser’s nervous break downs at the mere mention of Leck. This leaves Bitterblue at a loss for information on what happened to her kingdom, and thus how to fix it, so she decides to take control and leaves her castle one night to head out into the city, and discover it’s secrets.

Instead she makes a run in with a graced thief and a far too trusting printer who show, unknown to them, the Queen around her own city that is in shambles and still under Leck’s deadly influence. Bitterblue discovers many secrets with the help of the thieving and irresistible Saf (AKA Sapphire) and the generous printer Teddy.

Bitterblue and Sapphire’s romance is very slow burning, and at a lot of points in the novel I almost forgot about them, not because it wasn’t a good romance I was just so enveloped in the madness that surrounds Bitterblue in her castle: suicides, drunks, murderers all of them trying to forget Leck and convince Bitterblue of their rightness is covering up the past. There were so many plot twists in this novel that I struggled to come up for air even after setting the book down.A depressing sadness and eerie curiosity will keep you turning the pages. After reading the first two books really getting a look at Leck’s madness (and at his true dealings with his subjects) was both bone-chilling and fascinating.

And that’s why I truly can’t compare this book with Fire or Graceling. They are simply TOO different. Graceling was about love , Fire was about strength, and Bitterblue is about Healing and how love and strength play into it. That honestly makes it the perfect sequel/companion to Graceling and Fire. There was so much more to Bitterblue than in Fire and Graceling. It was this giant mass of secrets and politics, and fear that wasn’t in Graceling and Fire. Maybe, as I said before, because Bitterblue is not graced and is human. She has nothing but her title and that leaves her so much more vulnerable than Katsa (who is the MC of Graceling and is graced with survival) and Fire (who is a ‘Monster’ and has countless abilities and is obviously the MC of Fire). Had Bitterblue been anything but human I feel like the novel would of lost a lot of it’s impact.

Over all Bitterblue was a very weighty novel and is a nice wrap up to Graceling’s tale and a good compliment to Fire; that left us with more questions than answers about Leck.

*next paragraph contains mild spoilers*

Bitterblue has a lot of answers, but none of them really tell us the one thing that we’ve all asked through out the series: why is Leck so deeply demented? And the true beauty of Bitterblue is that we know what he’s done. We know nearly all of it, but we must figure out for ourselves why he’s done it. Or if there is any reason at all. Just as Bitterblue must. So, we the human readers really become Bitterblue, observing these strange creatures from a distance and never really understanding the madness that compelled Leck.

*end mild spoilers*

The fact that I feel the need to read this book again to fully understand it compels me to give it 4 1/2 stars if only to be able to come back and give it 5 when I read it again and absorb it fully.

I hope you all enjoyed the review! Sorry it was so long, but the book was a hefty 5oo pages and gave me a lot to say!

 

My First True Love(s)

25 Sep

From the time I was little I was in love with stories. Movies, plays, books anything that wasn’t kindergarten napping and hopscotch I was into. I desperately wanted something exciting to happen to me, something that happened to characters in books. I wanted to sprout wings, or find out I was a missing princess like Anastasia.

Naturally then, I had my favorite stories, and my favorite characters. I had particularly bad little girl crushes on Peter Pan and Dickon from The Secret Garden.

To This day I’m not sure what the appeal of these two were as compared to the princes of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Maybe it was the fact that Peter Pan was utterly wild and incredulous, while the Princes of Disney had little else but their title.

Oh Golly! If you don’t find this adorable you’re on crack!

Peter Pan always held a special place in my heart. He was unruly and lets not forget musical (pan pipes). Not to mention an excellent leader (he could rally 12 boys under the age of 13 and that’s a tough job for anyone). Besides that he was an extraordinary fighter (beating up a  pirate 3 times his age and half his wit). And boy was he witty. Even at 7 years old I  couldn’t help but falling in love with people’s wit and Peter Pan’s was no exception.

Then there was the fact that he was utterly magically, and could freakin’ fly! If that wasn’t reason enough to want to marry him then i don’t know what is. So there is my explanation for being in love with Peter Pan. Makes sense.

Then there was Dickon. Oh Dickon, sweet, adorable, animal charmer Dickon! That should be enough to make any girl swoon right there. Let’s not even MENTION the fact that he has an accent (an adorable little scots-irishaccent)! Plus he’s all in love with animals and the wind in his hair and stuff like that and as a little suburbs

It’s like The Notebook for 10 year olds! 😀 *I’m squealing on the inside*

girl I wanted so badly to run out on the ‘Moore’ with him. Plus, he could tame a WILD PONY. Every little girl wants a pony and if a boy could tame a wild pony and give it to me I’m pretty dang sure I would marry him to this day. Nuff said.

Oh and on top of that he would Push Mary on the swing in the garden and that was just too cute! He was a perfect little gentleman, which is the complete opposite of Peter. Who in retrospect was a total player who flirted with Mermaids, and probably joked around with Wendy way too much. He will just never grow up. So immature (haha)!

What do my fictious love interests have to do with writing.

Well, just recently I realized that right there (those two characters) are excellent examples of how to make love interests interesting. They (even as children) had the makings of great men. And so I will now got pat myself on the back for discovering that I have great taste in fictitious boys. Their characters would be excellent models to form an MC or a secondary character with! Now, don’t you feel like you learned something?

Did anyone else have kiddie crushes?

Sorry this post is late… Microsoft is lame and windows live didn’t post it for me! UGH! Technology 😦

Ally on: Being a Teen Writer

20 Sep

I feel like it’s time for a little heart to heart here guys. I just need to get this situation off my chest, because everyone else seems to have an opinion about it and so here’s my two cents on teen writers, and being one.

First off, we get a bad wrap. At least I thinks so. We can’t write anything ‘good‘, were shut ins, we drink large amounts of tea, and on top of all of this people seem to think that were just writing for fun. FUN? Whomsoever thinks writing is fun has obviously never done it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to people and when I tell them I’m a writer they’ll say over exuberantly  “Oh that’s cute!” or dreadfully, “you aren’t going to college for that are you?”. With either response you might as well of just spit in my tea and walked away.

I’m not taken seriously, and i know it. Heck, everyone knows it!

If you’re between the ages of say… 13 and 20 and drop the ‘W’ bomb you’re whole ship is sunk. You automatically become the out in space, unrealistic dreamer who obviously doesn’t have his/her head on straight and clearly, ever so clearly needs to be steered in the right direction. I can’t tell you how often my Grandmother has throw out the topic of engineer, or chemist, or (if you absolutely must) biologist when I bring up writing. And it isn’t that those aren’t good jobs, or that I couldn’t do them (or don’t want to) it’s the fact that you don’t even give writing a second thought.

No one has EVER said to me (other than fellow writers) “Why Ally, you should keep writing! You could have a future there.”

And I’m not asking for handouts, or compliments, honestly. If you want to tell me I suck at writing and am a failure and that I’ll never amount to anything in the field… fine. But don’t just skim over it like it isn’t even worth a comment, like since its worthless to you it’s worthless to me, because it’s not.

And i think that’s where the big misconception is. People think this is just something I do. They think that it’s worthless.That it’s all the papers you throw away at the end of the school year (sure you used them once, they meant something once. But no one else will want them, and eventually you’ll realize you don’t need them, and you’ll just toss it out with the trash)

But it ISN”T LIKE THAT.

Writing is something that you have to commit to. ESPECIALLY as a teen! School, sports, friends, family, clubs, a part-time job, applying for college (if your a Jr./Senior), and church (if your into that) is all on a teen’s plate. Add writing to that and, well, you could just about drop dead at the end of the day. At least I could. I suppose this isn’t just teens, but every writer with a life. (haha, what life?). What I’m saying is it’s easy as a teenager to steal every spare moment of  the day to just catch your breath, but teen writers don’t and that’s what people don’t get.

Most of the time writing isn’t fun, and we have to MAKE time to do it. We have to force ourselves to do a lot of days. And anybody who writes will tell you that isn’t easy. You have to take yourself very seriously to do it.

I take myself seriously, and I just wish other people would to. I’m not asking you to tell me I’m amazing. I’m just asking you to give me chance.

My Feelings about Matched by Allie Condie

13 Sep

Post: 3/17

So Yesterday I wrote a post about books people love that I hate/hate that  I love. In that post I brought up the book Matched by Allie Condie, who you probably know got rave reviews and bunches of hype for her Matched series. I hated it and said as much. One of my readers asked why and I began to respond in a comment and then realized that it was much too long, and so you get what you see here today.

Where to begin with this…

I’m sorry, if you loved this book because I’m going to have to rip it to shreds right now. I apologize in advance.

To start off, the whole book just ticked me off because I love Lowis Lowry to death. I have read The Giver six times and it’s amazing and she’s amazing and… yeah. You get it right? So when I read Matched I wanted to go club whoever let it out of the slush pile because I saw so much of the work being dead on The Giver. It’s a society where your job/mate is choosen for you, the fact that you have to take ‘pills’ to suppress your natural emotions and sedate your brain. Anything half way decent in that book was ripped right out of the giver and then basted in Condie’s particular brand of bland.

Besides this ,Condie decided to spice things up with a little forbidden reading/books (*ehm* also from The Giver). The MC’s only redeeming quality is that she likes poetry but the reasons behind this rebellious behavior are hidden in the soup of Allie Condie’s pacing. For some reason she throws in Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” and okay I guess I get it (its a dystopian, the poems about not submitting to authority), but… just WHY? WHY! Why did you throw a piece of (really overused in the first place) literature. It was like throwing a pretty dress in the mud because you thought it’d make the mud look better. All you’re doing is ruining the dress.

On the same note with the fact that the poetry is completely irrelevant since we have no reason other than the MC’s grandfather’s death*(if i remember correctly) for her to like it  we equally have no reason for her to like Ky over Xander. It made less than zero sense to me! The only reason she starts to like Ky anyway is because the ‘society’ has a glitch in her Match card (that tells her about her match) and so it totally defeats the purpose of her rebelling since the idea came from the society in the first place! Besides that, why would Ky’s information even have been in the same pool to match with her if he was a lowly worker? It doesn’t make sense. There’s no way that the computer/matchers (or whoever matches people ,I forget how it happens) would have those two sets of data in the same place. So, yeah, GAPING PLOT HOLE!

Then when Ky and the MC do get together I just found the romance so BLAH. I didn’t really like Ky in the first place. Xander was obviously a better choice. Neither of them had much personality, but at least Xander was kind of happy go lucky! Then Ky is banished or sent away and the MC is all: boo hoo! Then the Peace keepers (or whoever the law enforcers are) come in and are like, “take these pills now!” and so she hides her pill and doesn’t take it. OOOOHHHHH rebellion! Not really, keep reciting your poetry dear.

Anyway I just really hated it and it made me beat my head against my desk and cry wondering how she got a million dollar contract for THAT.

Now, for those of you who loved the book, feel free to yell at me and tell me why I am wrong! I love a good debate 🙂

*The euthanization of old people, yeah, that’s from The Giver too. Just saying.

GoodReads is a Paradox

12 Sep

Post: 2/17

There are few things in life that consistently shock me over and over again. That incredibly short list has a large star next to finding out someone hates a book I love. It baffles me. How anyone could hate a book that I love t is just bizarre. You have to wonder what goes through their head as compared to yours. Is it even possible that someone could disdain a  piece of literature as much as you love it? It’s likely the most dysfunctional paradox ever.

The reason I bring this up is because my dearest bookish friend just finished FIRE by Kristin Cashore the other day. And oh my goodness I am absolutely in LOVE with that book. I love everything about it; the characters, the plot, the moral, the world building. It’s all simply genius and I was so excited to have my friend read it. It’s a beautiful piece of writing and I couldn’t wait to rave and rant about it with her when she was finished.

So, I decided to GoodReads creep today.

And what I found was astonishing. She’d finished the book… and she’d given it TWO STARS. TWO STARS! Was that even legal? I was sure she’d miss-clicked, but no, her review said she’d given it as much. When I asked her about it she just kind of waved it off, “It was alright” she said. And this is where I’m dumbfounded.

I just think it’s funny how one book, the SAME book can get such opposite reactions from two seemingly similar people. My bookish friend is indeed quit similar to myself. In fact we are often told that we are “the same person” (jokingly of course) it doesn’t help that we say things in unison at times or finish each others sentences. And it’s like that all across the board. People all have a varied reaction to every novel. Matched by Allie Condie for instance. FAILURE. JUST FAILURE if you ask me, but there were plenty of people who gave her a five-star review!

Why?

Because readers bring something to a novel that the author can never expect. An X factor that changes with each one. A readers past experiences, values, and knowledge, all effect how the book is read and in turn experienced and received. The reason people hate books you love or love books you hate is because they see something you don’t or don’t see something you do in the text. When people say it’s all about how you look at things they are right as rain.

This my friends, is why GoodReads is a Paradox.

So go ahead and tell me about books your friends hate and you love or vice versa!

Bridgeing the Gap: YA to Adult Literature

17 Aug

YA has become an enormous market for readers. More of one than I think anyone ever expected. But none the less we now have a whole generation of teens who are hooked on YA literature. Not only hooked, but in many ways boxed in by it. Bridgeing the gap between picking up a Young Adult novel and “adult” novel can seem tremendous to some people.

It’s foreign territory, and up until a year ago I was one of those people treading water between YA and Adult trying to figure out where I stood… or ummm…. swam. Anyway I think that this is a big issue with today’s young readers and so I thought I’d help bridge the gap a little.

As I said before I myself was having trouble crossing over. After-all when you read as much YA as I do you get comfortable. You get used to certain types of cover designs, writing styles, and basic plots. You know how to choose books that you’ll like and you know what ones to toss. But, when it comes to Adult literature I was lost. The covers were very… plain with tons of super imposed names and lengthy blurbs. The books were thicker, and the characters older. How was I going to relate? Where was I supposed to start? How would I be able to choose a book when I didn’t recognize any of the authors or see any covers that caught my eye?

So I hesitated, and waited, and procrastinated; until… I YouTubed. Oh my, how I worship book tubers! And that is one way to break into the Adult genre! I myself  started began reading Jasper Fforde’s novel Shades of Grey ( NO NOT FIFTY SHADES OF GREY this is a different book entirely) after hearing a lovely review by one of my favorite book-tubers “The Readables” .  She posted a rave review of it, and I couldn’t help but be curious. Since The Readables does a lot of YA reviews as well I felt comfortable trusting her opinion. So, one way to break into the Adult genre is to join YouTube and follower book-tubers!  Hearing a review by someone who really loved a book can be a lot more motivating than staring at a zillion covers or reading long blurbs. I highly recommend you check out The Readables and other book tubers liker her! (This applies to book blogs too!)

Another way to get into adult literature is to check out more ‘adult YA’ I know I’m contradicting myself a bit here, but what I mean is that you should try getting into YA that deals with heavier topics and has deeper meaning than just a story if you are scared to take the plunge headfirst. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater for instance reads much more closely to an ‘adult’ novel than much of YA. It has an excellent vocabulary and leaves out many of the cliche teeny-bopper frills that a lot of YA has.  Books like Birth Marked  by Caragh O’Brien, In The Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith, and Fire by Kiresten Cashore are all excellent crossover literature to check out as well.

Finally if all else fails why not read a bestseller books like The Help, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, and Memories of a Geisha, that become popular motion pictures or international sensations are a good place to start. If nothing else you know that it must be an okay book, or it couldn’t be that popular right? Read a few reviews and then choose the NYT bestseller that you think best fits your taste. if nothing else you’ll have bragging rights and be able to converse intelligently about the books that are buzzing in adult circles!

I hope those of you who haven’t tested the waters in adult literature do so soon, because there are a lot of wonderful books out there in this genre! And for those of you who do read adult literature any recommendations for new comers?

Make Me Sway: Emotion on Rails

9 Aug

I think we’ve all heard it. That one piece of music, something about just gets you. A line, a melody, the ache in a singers voice. At some point or another you will find yourself swayed by the power of a song. Your body will automatically initiate a reaction. Swaying, tapping your foot, smiling, and on occasion crying.

Just like music books should sway a readers emotion. SOMETHING about the book needs to be powerful enough to intiate a physical reaction. Who hasn’t found themself laughing, sighing, kicking your feet impatiently, or crying on account of a book? Today I’d like to talk about a scene that caught me off guard and why it’s the perfect example of how to infuse emotion into a scene so deeply that your readers find themselves swaying to your current.

I’m going to be looking at the first chapter of Beth Revis’ novel Across the universe. So no spoilers! Though I do reccommend that you read the first chapter for free HERE to get the most out of his post.

Anyway if you read that or have read the book you know that the first chapter consists of Amy (the MC) getting ready to be chronologically frozen and put onto GODSPEED the spaceship with her parents. And I’m not going to lie to you I started having a minor panic attack during the FIRST CHAPTER! I actually cried a little bit, and this deeply disturbed and stunned me at once. I couldn’t understand why I had been so moved and upset without any back story. After-all, how could I possibly care enough to be crying when I’d only met Amy something like 10 pages ago?

It didn’t make sense. So I read it again. And again… and one for time just to make sure I knew what I was talking about.

And that’s when the light bulb went on.

All my writing life I’ve been told that creating emotional investment in a novel is entirely dependent upon characters. you must make characters we care about, they say. You must make them relate-able, that’s the key!

But reading this scene I realized that characters are just the train on the tracks of making emotional connection. Sure thats the part everyone pays attention to but what about the tracks themselves? The stop lights and stations?

And Beth Revis puts the tracks to the test in this first chapter.

Let me explain.The ‘tracks’ are our basic human fears and feelings. This whole chapter is so full of them that I could just

The rails are deeply grounded in all of us

choke and vomit and they all wouldn’t be able to come up at once! (sorry gross) Anyway, this chapter confronts several fears, some smaller ones being the fear of needles, cold, and small spaces. All of which Amy has  to watch her mother go through as she is put into a tiny freezing box of cryo-liquid, her blood painfully pumped out, KNOWING she will have to do this in a few moments. This anticipatory fear is also a factor in the sheer genius that Revis presents. (As anticipation of pain is often worse than the pain itself, remember shots when you were little? Kicking and screaming for a pinch!)

Basic human fear. Something we can relate to.

Amy also faces the fear on loneliness another ‘track that great emotional characters run on”. Many people are afraid to be alone.  Humans are naturally social creatures (yes even writers we are not a separate species despite some outsiders opinions! haha). Amy is forced with a decision (a stop light) of staying on earth or leaving with her parents her dad telling her before he is frozen that :

“I’m going next. Your mother wouldn’t agree to that—she thoughtyou’d still back down, decide not to come with us. Well, I’m giving youthat option. I’m going next. Then, if you’d like to walk away, not be frozen,that’s okay. I’ve told your aunt and uncle. They’re waiting outside; they’llbe there until I’ve. After they freeze me, you can just walk away. Mom andI won’t know, not for centuries, not till we wake up, and if you do decideto live instead of being frozen, then we’ll be okay.” (Revis, 6)

Not only is there a HUGE decision, but it is riding on the rails of loneliness. Amy must decided if she can live a life without her parents knowing she will die long before the realize she has left them (and live her whole life knowing this) or go with them and leave all her other family and friends behind. leave the safety and comforter of everything she is familiar with behind. She can not avoid an empty loneliness no matter which way she turns. Even if she chooses her parents she is forced to choose the icy slumber of centuries, perhaps a loneliness even worse than a life without her parents. It makes your heart sink doesn’t it?

Applying basic human fears, is the key to making emotionally strong characters.

Because we are all afraid of something and loneliness, Pain, and responsibility are all basic fears that Amy faces in just chapter one of the novel.

Learning how to use the rails of writing great characters is one of the most important tools a writer can have. What do you think? Do you know of a scene that shares rails with this one? What’s your most emotionally moving scene?