Releasing the Frontal Lobe: A Catch-Up Post

So, I really haven’t been doing much reading lately–well, I have, but I just can’t seem to finish anything! With all the events of the last few weeks, including LATFOB, Gayle Forman’s Musical Tour, and Children’s Literature Council, and everything I need to read/write/make for school… My eyes are about to fall out of my head.

So I’m going to unload a little bit of information onto the blog, and hope that makes some room in the grey matter chamber to finish the semester without too much screaming.

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff
If you hunger for love and thirst for approval, you’ll devour this clever novel in just a few bites. This book was funny, touching, and a great counterpoint to Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I think it’s pretty strange that I decided to read them both at the same time. Food is much more enjoyable; I enjoy the complexities in the various characters like O. Douglas, the quarterback who takes Andrew “under his wing” so to speak; the various attitudes toward fatness that help both Andrew and the reader see beyond the blubber. For the synopsis, click here.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (The Queen’s Thief, Book 1)
This has been sitting on my shelf for at least a year or two. I finally picked it up last week and couldn’t put it down! Storytelling figures greatly in this book as Gen and other characters retell folktales based on Greek myths. The final twists and turns revealed at the end of the book are clever and well worth the wait! I wish I weren’t still in the middle of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell so I could plow through the next three books. For the synopsis, click here.

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder (Inside Out, Book 1)
A wildly imaginative new fantasy from the author of Poison Study. Some may find the endless tension tiring but it just kept me wide awake. I know from experience, Maria’s hard on her heroines–they can never seem to catch a break. If you love dystopia, you’re in luck. And if you’re not an attentive reader, leave this one alone: I needed a map to figure out where the heck Trella was going under, inside, in-between and upside down in this futuristic thriller. Luckily the author provides them on her website. 😀 For the synopsis, click here.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2)
Due out July 20, 2010. I got my hands on an ARC of this for about 24 hours and I was not disappointed–all the romance of the original plus a sly, creeping dread; a new wolf; and what I love most of all: Maggie’s lyrical writing. So few writers now can really use language in a way that makes you want to dance; Stiefvater’s musicianship seems to come out of every instrument–even the lowly word processing application can be made to sing. Play on, Maggie, play on!

There’s more, but I’ve got to get to chem lab (shakes fist at double-displacement reactions) so check back later!

I leave you with a link to new original fiction at “The Courtship of the Queen” by Bruce McAllister.


Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Harsh, I know. But honest.

Harsh, I know. But I’m being honest. I did not like this book.

Spoilers ahoy, and beware!

The Gist

Luce is a troubled young girl who has just been forcibly enrolled into Sword & Cross, a reform school where she is expected to overcome whatever violent tendencies led to her previous almost-boyfriend Trevor to die a horrible mysterious death–which she is supposedly responsible for, though the authorities couldn’t prove that what happened was her fault, nor can they prove really what happened at all. Something to do with dark, swirling shadows.

The Plot

Luce navigates high school usual (mean girls, gym class, detention) while being fought over by two boys, Cam and Daniel, to whom she is mysteriously drawn–Cam is gentlemanly and keeps giving her gifts, while Daniel is cold and aloof but she’s inexplicably drawn to him anyway.

The Good

There was one good and unexpected twist, a character who appears to be on on side but is really on the other. Lauren Kate, you really did fool me. Bravo.

The Bad

Luce and Daniel have a supernaturally connected past–he seems to know everything about her already, while she seems to have no idea why. Instead of exploring this intriguing setup by elaborating on these many past-life romances (which, done right, would have been WIN!), the author enumerates them in 1 sentence about 3/4 of the way into the book, after boring the reader to death by falling into the treacherous Twilight-find-and-replace formula (epic FAIL).

For those who are not familiar with Twilight:

1 ) Girl feels an inescapable “pull” towards Cute Guy
2 ) Cute Guy treats her coldly
3 ) Something threatens to crush Girl–in this case, a stone angel statue falling in the school cemetery (yes, the school has a cemetery)
4 ) Cute Guy saves her from smushing, starts being nicer to her
5 ) Girl spends rest of book remarking on how cute Cute Guy is
6 ) Kissing
7 ) Peril–in this case two factions of fallen angels fight over Luce’s soul, no reason is given, although ostensibly there is one that will be revealed in later books
8 ) Cute Guy saves Girl from further death, then pushes her away “for her own good” leading into the sequel

Replace Girl and Cute Guy with the names you picked for you character and you’re set for a teen blockbuster!

Also, while the fallen angel mythology is fairly transparent to the reader, it takes the main character much too long to figure it out. The “dark shadows” that follow Luce around are inconsistent and are rendered so non-threatening that by the middle of the book, you’re not sure whether you’re supposed to be worried about them or not. And by then, I also wanted to just make someone else read the book for me, then have them explain what happened just to satisfy my curiousity.

Now we come to what I call “Lost Season 4 Syndrome”: when the Story poses more Questions than it Answers, and none of the Answers that it does reveal are compelling enough to make the Audience want to continue on further discovering Answers, you Lose the Audience. I, being a conscientious audience member, soldiered on (both with Lost, which I now like again, and with Fallen, which I finished but did not enjoy) and I really do hope that both creative parties make me glad that I did. Will I read the sequel, Torment? Probably, yes. Will I like it, now, that’s a different story.

Now what?

If you know me, you know that while I like Twilight, I am not blind to its weaknesses–I know it’s poorly written and kind of silly. I also know that it is extremely easy for young adult authors to, whether they go into it knowingly or not, end up using the same formula–see also Evermore & Hush, Hush. I am still holding out hope that somewhere along the production line for whatever the author/publisher thinks will be “the next Twilight”, someone is brave enough to go, “Hey, you know, this sounds exactly like–“. I am still holding out hope that whoever worked on Fallen and the other two didn’t just see the similarities and, instead of pointing it out, rubbed their hands together and said “We’re gonna make millions!” followed by an evil laugh or two.

I am hoping that the author has a better idea for the second book. sigh.

The contest!

What? You’re giving away your ARC? I thought you hated it and are telling me not to read it!

First of all, I’m not telling you not to read it. It’s a free country. Undoubtedly there will be people out there who do not have the same reading tastes as I do, and/or are looking for something that will hit the same nerves as Twilight (and unfortunately for this author, those nerves of mine have been beaten to a pulp by Twilight and no longer activate). In which case, Fallen will scratch that itch!

Secondly, there’s that whole FTC brouhaha (The Story Siren has a great blog post about that from a few months ago) about ARCs as compensation for favorable reviws–in this case, it was not a favorable review anyway, but I’m still getting rid of the book.


If you are still curious, and if you liked Evermore and/or Hush, Hush and think you will enjoy this book too, then enter to win.

Comment below and answer one or more of the following prompts:

Are you still in the thralls of Twilight-mania, and do you think this condition will allow you to view Fallen in a more favorable light than I did?

Are Angels the new Vampires? Why or why not?

Is there a YA book that you enjoyed in 2009 that stood out as not being a Twilight clone? What was it, and why do you think so?

If you read a negative review of something, will you still read the book? Why or why not?

+1 for every prompt you answer and +1 for subscribing or being a subscriber already <–edit: do this on Blogspot! I’m moving later this week.
+1 for friending me on GoodReads!
+1 for each tweet and/or blogpost about this review and contest. Here’s the shortlink:

Each point is assigned a number, and at the end of the contest I will use the random# generator to choose a number between 1 and the total number of points. If the number corresponds with one of your points, you win! The more points you get, the more chances you have of winning. I can only track the points you declare in the comments portion of this entry, so comment whenever you tweet or blog leading someone to this post.

The contest is open to US residents only (sorry, I’m poor on postage right now) and ends at 12 am on January 11, 2010.

Quickie – Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick


I love the cover! The insides, well, I wouldn’t call it *love* per se. I’d call it a strong desire to make out with a fictional character. Yeah. That’s it.

Writing and writer get the thumbs-up (for comparison’s sake, Marked seemed like an endless, boring and cliched wasteland; Hush Hush was more of a page-turner–much better!), plot and mythology were promising, guy was hot and girl was not that interesting. All in all a fair first novel and worth a read. Perfect for a dark and stormy night.

If you loved Twilight, you’ll like this book.

If you hated Twilight, you’ll really, really hate it. Go read some Atwood. Her new one is *amazing*.

I thought about offering this up as a contest prize on my blog but… boy that cover is pretty! Me keep.

Also, my 100th book this year! Yay!

– – –

In other news, I finally remembered to bring home that copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s Ballad that arrived at the store but I kept remembering it only *after* setting the burglar alarm and locking the door. Guh! I may be able to salvage this “day off” which I spent mostly working. 😡

Quickie – A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb


A creepy, uncomfortable read with literary and spiritual tones. Definitely a discussion book. Issues of loss, lust, escape and compassion–definitely a mature teen read. Impressive how Whitcomb can convey themes of hope and love: quoting the Bible while criticizing outwardly devout but inwardly empty Christianity. The uber-Christians scared me more than the ghosts.

Don’t miss her other YA novel, The Fetch: a story of faith intertwined with Romanov speculation.

Quickie – Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger


Ok, I know you’re going to think I’m being overgenerous in giving so many books 5’s. But really, it’s because I hesitate to read a book that I’m already not sure I’m going to like. I buy most of my books, and I probably won’t drop any dough on something I don’t anticipate enjoying. Sure, once in a while there are those things I pick up not expecting to like them, then verifying that I don’t like them, then giving them away (*cough*BlueBloods*cough cough ahem*). Soulless isn’t one of them.

I was already pretty sure I was going to like Soulless. I mean, the series is called Parasol Protectorate–and I have to confess, “parasol” is one of those words you can put on practically anything and influence me in favor of that thing, along with “incognito”, “aubergine” and “crenellated”.

I think I saw E put it on her TBR shelf, so I got a gander at the cover. Thumbs up.

I clicked through to find this description:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

And do they have treacle tart?” Two thumbs up! Add treacle to the list of Alethea-sensitive words, thanks to Lewis Carroll for the early ingraining.

My GoodReads review (as this is threatening to turn into something that is not a Quickie anymore):

I blame Anna Paquin; I can’t enjoy this whole Southern Vampire revival.

What I can enjoy is this new stake-and-crumpets Victorian steampunk series: The Parasol Protectorate. It has all the bells and whistles of a Regency romance (parasols, cravats, and treacle tarts); the heavings and throbbings of a historical romance; the fangs, claws, and painful transformations of a paranormal fantasy (yes, complete with a transplanted Highland werewolf in London); and buckets and buckets of tea. Part Charlotte Bronte, part P.G. Wodehouse, a dollop of Joss Whedon and just a dash of your favorite bodice-ripping author–my current one would probably be Madeleine Hunter… what am I saying? My current favorite is *definitely* Gail Carriger! While you’re waiting for Changeless to hit the bookshop shelves, you can play dress up with Alexia.

This is just screaming to be made into a Katherine Kellgren audiobook.

I’d tell you more, but this is cutting into my precious reading time. And I think I might just read this one again…

Quickie – The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood


Beautiful and engaging, a complex and satisfying mix of dystopian sci-fi, environmentalism, anarchy and spirituality. Atwood is a poet, a wise woman, a siren storyteller. I’d be surprised and appalled if this book doesn’t win any awards in the coming year.

Recommended for all Creatures great and small, but probably not for anyone under 15.

See also: Oryx & Crake, The Handmaid’s Tale; Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, John Christopher’s The White Mountains.

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

A girl with a bird she found in the snow
that flew up her gown, and that’s how she knows
that God made her eyes for crying at birth
then left the ground to circle the earth

~Iron & Wine, “Boy with a Coin

Could not get enough of this^ today, nor put down Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception. Click here for the quickie review at GoodReads; scroll down further for the full review.

Lament by Maggie StiefvaterLament by Maggie Stiefvater

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater


I’ve had some lukewarm encounters with faerie tales lately, to the point where I hesitated for ages to pick this one up. But then I read Shiver (brrr! so good!) and started Internet-stalking author Maggie Stiefvater (kidding). Then a friend of mine lent me Lament and I pretty much swooned with the heat.

Wow. That was a lot of links. Be fair warned: I use lots of ( )s and !s when I’m excited. And I’m really excited about this book.

If you enjoy faerie lore, love triangles (squares? trapezoids?), and folk songs, you’ll love Lament. What starts out like most other YA novels (girl hurls chunks, boy holds her hair, and then they make beautiful music together) with a common mythology thrown in (faeries try to steal away a pretty, special little human girl) adds up to a fine romance, fit for a Faerie Queen. Deirdre’s story appears interspersed with and influenced by folk songs, and you know what that means: love burns brightly, then is drowned, or murdered, or sacrificed; the lovers may die, but their love lives on and on.

Strong protagonists anchor Stiefvater’s debut novel: Deirdre, the music geek with mad skills but little self-confidence; Luke, the mysterious stranger with the kind demeanor and hot bod; and James, the quirky childhood-best-friend who has watched Dee grow into the desirable young woman she is at the start of the story… unfortunately, he’s not the only one who has been watching her: They have been watching her from birth–and They are showing themselves to her, showering her with clovers, cloying her with Their scent.

Readers will appreciate the freshness and believability Stiefvater injects into such a popular and fantastic premise. I especially enjoy her sense of humor and willingness to not take her story too seriously. Read this if you love to contemplate youth and beauty, duty and tragedy, music and poetry. And don’t miss the sequel, Ballad: The gathering of Faerie, due out October 1st.

Be sure to check out Maggie’s website, blog, and YouTube channel–this last one is particularly awesome as she often designs and performs her own book trailers. I love “Still Werewolf Watching”, and any accounts of the adventures of Maggie’s children, Thing 1 and Thing 2. (For anyone who, like me, did not grow up with Dr. Seuss, the codenames refer to characters in the book The Cat in the Hat.)