Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Thursday Literary News Roundup (8)

The Thursday Literary News Roundup 


(sorry it's a bit shorter than usual, everyone - I'm home for the holidays still, and my internet connection is precarious, to say the least)

 
Blog Posts of Note:

Andrea Cremer did a great guest post over at My Favorite Books. Here's snippet: "A common response to Nightshade from readers is the comment that it’s one of his or her favorite werewolf books. As much as I understand where that idea comes from, I think it’s time for me to take and stand and say Nightshade is not a werewolf book. Here’s what I mean. . . "

Adam Polaski had a very well-written post on The Hunger Games over at Buzzsaw called  "The Hunger Games: A Pretty Adult “Young Adult” Novel". 
The blog of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) posted list about what can make a YA librarian great!  Some are funny, and some are dead on.  They also posted a reminder with some great infomration and links in another post about "Thinking Big About Advocacy" Contest,

The Bookbag gave a great, honest review on Inside Out by Maria v. Snyder the first book on a new dystopian series: "I am tempted to go into a lot more depth about the fascinating premise, but half of the fun of reading the novel came in the gradual understanding of the true nature of Inside, and so I'll leave that for you to enjoy."

If you haven't checked Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner's End of 2010 survey/meme, you still have a chance to go over and join in!

Jaym Gates over a the Apex Book Company's blog wrote a fantastic post on the (not so) different themes between adult fiction and YA, and how he became a fan - very well put and worth the read: The Relevance of YA for Adults: The Harry Potter Effect

Guest blog post and giveaway of XVI by Julia Karr at YA Highway.

Steph Su Reads had a hilarious post with WTF Covers of 2010.  She and the Supernatural Snark would make a deadly cover critique team, no?


I was so FREAKING excited about this early review of Jeaniene Frost's upcoming This Side of the Grave that I squeed way outloud!  Thank you, Chelsea, from The Vampire Book Club.  She even quotes the fabulous Bones from the upcoming title: "Ask me if I sparkle and I’ll kill you where you stand,” Bones cut him off with utmost seriousness."

prophecygirl at Wondrous Reads gave a well through-out review on  The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (soon-to-be-released in the UK): "The Replacement really does stand out from the paranormal crowd, firstly because there isn't a single fanged or furry creature in sight. It's a more mature story than a lot of other stuff out there, and that becomes apparent after a handful of chapters."  I was a Teenage Book Geek also reviewed and was impressed: "Malevolent and haunting, The Replacement blurs the boundary between paranormal romance and horror with fascinating results."

The YA YA YAs and the Guys Lit Wire gave a great review on a Morris award nominee, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride: "the sly humor, and Sam’s everyday likability, and you’ve got a story that grabbed me from the first page and kept me entertained until the end."  Mummazappa over at The Book Nerd Club also reviewed this and gave it stellar marks!

Belinda from Reviews from the Heart gave an amazing review on Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton: "Aside from the action filled twists and turns, it gave a truly sweet and romantic story of a young girl coming again into an extraordinary legacy and meeting the boy that has stood by her side for a multitude of lifetimes. It was beautiful. It was heartbreaking and I couldn’t help but enjoy the experience."  The Mad Scientist also reviewed and was blown away: "I flew through this book devouring every word and chapter as I went.  It felt short, but not in a bad way at all.  Come to find out that the book is 400+ pages in real book form.  WoW!  Yes, I was floored."

Jenny at Supernatural Snark  gave a beautiful review of Unearthly by : "Unearthly is a welcome addition to the group of paranormal novels dealing with angel lore, one that beautifully blends normal with supernatural, drama with humor, and the crushing weight of duty with the intense desire to refuse dictation and shake loose the bonds of expectation."  Wow, can you beat that sentence?

Reviewer X gave a lovely review of Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King: "See, Ms King didn’t just spin a new weepy tale about a girl (just like you and me) coming to terms with her best friend’s death and growing as a person and blah blah blah. She created characters that came alive, situations that felt very much real, and did so in writing that is just quirkily poignant, poignantly quirky, seesawing between the two (trust me, there is a difference)."
Guys Lit Wire also did a great review on a book that I haven't heard that much on called The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt: "Dana Reinhardt's powerful story discusses how and why we connect with others, and illustrates an unbreakable bond between two brothers who are striving to know each other - and themselves - better."

Audrey from Holes in My Brain wrote up a wonderful review of When the Stars Goes Blue by Caridad Ferrer: "the passion in the writing, the allusion to the opera Carmen (which I’m unfamiliar with), the dancing… things were intense, sexy and fiery, but there were also times of reflection and insecurity. Caridad Ferrer really managed to create a story with soul."

Articles to Read:

The New York Times has started a discussion on, "The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction".  Question it seeks to answer are: "Why do bestselling young adult novels seem darker in theme now than in past years? What's behind this dystopian trend, and why is there so much demand for it?"

The Austin Chronicle followed the YA scene in its city this last week.  Check the awesome article that features two of my favorite book bloggers from Forever YA: "Arrested Development?  Young-at-heart Austin is home to a booming Young Adult literature scene".  However, it seems the Chronicle may have misquoted one of the esteemed bloggers about the Forever YA's rating on a one Mr. Edward Cullen - go to their site for more.

Great article from The Wall Street Journal also called, "A Kids' Book Club for Adults" - all about a few YA reading book clubs for adults in NYC.

MTV's Hollywood Crush section reflected on a specific series of the past year and looks forward to what will happen with it in 2011: "2010 In Review: 'The Hunger Games' Took Flight"

The Washington Post had this great article about how publishers are going directly to the source to get opinions about young adult books: "Wanted: Young readers to build book buzz"
YPulse posted its picks for Best and Worst YA moments of 2010.

Merriam-Webster posted its Top Ten Words of 2010.

More news from Reuters about the drama surrounding the possible Barnes & Noble buyout. 

Seeking Alpha posted a great article on "The Growth of eBooks" - has a lot of data on how specific genres sell.


Buzz: Books & Otherwise

I am insanely jealous of anyone who lives near Montgomery County, TX right now.  Oh, why, you ask?  Ummm, because LOIS LOWRY will be at their Seventh Annual Montgomery County Teen Book Festival on Saturday, January 22!  There will be several other YA Authors, so please, you lucky Texans, go have fun!
That's it for this week, kids!  More news and fun stuff to come next week!

If you have any thoughts or suggestions for The Thursday Literary New Roundup, feel free to comment or email me at bibliophile.brouhaha@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (10)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.  I highly encourage you to get to know your fellow bloggers and see what's new and upcoming in the book world!

Here's what I'm waiting on:


XVI
by Julia Karr
Realeases on 01.06.2011

Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world—even the most predatory of men—that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past—one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer (from GoodReads).

I like edgy books that address issues affecting young women.  This one sounds controversial and intriguing.  What do you think, and what are you waiting on?

Monday, December 27, 2010

REVIEW: Matched by Ally Condie

Matched
by Ally Condie
Published 11.30.2010
366 pages
Dutton Juvenile, Penguin Group

Synopsis
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

REVIEW: I really enjoyed this book and regretted when I had to put it down.  The protagonist is Cassia.  In the beginning, her life is perfect.  She is a level-headed 17-year old who comes from a good family and is excited about her future.  She is Matched to her best friend, Xander.  She does well at school and at work.  Her life will be a series of contented and controlled experiences.  She will close her eyes at age 80 like all citizens, and she will slip easily into death at her scheduled time.  She could be any girl, but I don’t mean that I found her dull, or that I could easily transfer my own personality into the story via her character. She’s her own person, knows what she is good at and what her place in her world is.  I found it very easy to connect with her and her fully confessional, first-person narrative makes you feel like you have a very close friendship with her.

The glitch on her screen when she sees Ky’s face is the main catalyst for Cassia to start questioning how are in the Society.  Several more things then happen that add to her sense of unease: her grandfather gives her forbidden words and encourages her to start asking questions, talk of her receiving her final work assignment increases, she receives more information about Ky that tickles her curiosity even more, her father gets into major trouble for losing something important, and the whole family starts to feel the strain of being scrutinized.  Through it all, Cassia struggles between the ideas of choice vs. safety, of data vs. emotion, etc.

All these things revolve around each other in the book and basically boil down to a question of free will.  Is it worth letting people make their own major life decisions given the risk for failure, or is better to have even-steven contentment without choice?  The catalyst for the question is not entirely a moral one for Cassia; it’s a question of love.  She knows Xander is a sure thing, and that their Match likely would prove to be a successful one based on the Society’s meticulously gathered data.  However, the attraction she feels for Ky is so potent, she struggles with ignoring it.  Ky also offers her something that she desires: knowledge.  Along the way there are other subplots that help build to the story’s tipping point, and these things lead to warnings and a very harsh crackdown by the Society.  However, the story’s spotlight is the forbidden attraction between Cassia and Ky.  I think the book on the whole is very well-written, but Cassia's growing tension over her feelings for Ky was wonderful, and I was genuinely excited for Cassia.  Ky is the most fascinating character in the book, and I hope we hear more of his personal voice in the sequel.  I wouldn't call him Cassia's opposite, but he certainly comes from a completely different frame-of-reference than she does.  He came from shadowy background and was adopted by Cassia’s neighbors.  He blends in, has been assigned to menial work despite his intelligence, and simply exists.  He is just there. 

The pacing is steady – this is a book that simmers, not boils. Cassia’s growing awareness and questioning of how the Society runs things and how they control her life carries the narrative.  It’s interesting to see her anger build, and her soft-spoken ways give way to a real determination that leaves you hoping it’s the ‘real thing’ between she and Ky.  My prediction is that she will be a different sort of character in the next book.  The grit she shows towards the end leaves real promise for further development, and I look forward to seeing who Cassia will grow into in the squeal.

There are a lot of elements in Matched that we’ve seen before: controlled society, forced domestic partnerships, love triangles, etc.  The Society in Ally Condie’s Matched is extremely similar to the Community in The Giver.  So similar, in fact, that I checked the ‘Acknowledgments’ to see if she credits Lowry at all.  She doesn’t, and I really think she ought to.  The Society reads like a less formal, more affectionate version of the Community from Lowry’s work.  Emotions aren’t as checked as they are in The Giver, but there definitely are limits to what the Officials in Condie’s book will allow.  While not wholly original, Matched is a well-written, attention grabbing story that kept me turning the page.  Each character is distinct and helps builds the tension leading up to the climax.  Condie skillfully balances the plot and Cassia’s inner, emotional struggle, and never once did I feel that one or the other was missing.  In fact, I kept it in my bag over the weekend and snuck in reading time where and when I could.  I definitely recommend this book. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Winner Announced! Merry Christmas!


Hello Everyone!  I hope you all are still having a wonderful time with your families!  Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway to for copies of the first two House of Night books.  153 people entered, and with extra points, there was a grand total of 338 entries!  Wow! 

Using random.org, lucky number 142 was picked, and that number belongs to:

Rosa!

Congratulations, Rosa!  I will send you an email shortly.  You will 48 hours to contact me with your address(by Tuesday afternoon) , and I will be happy to send the books to you!

In My Mailbox - The Christmas Edition


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme started by The Story Siren with inspiration from Pop Culture Junkie

Wow, so I was on hiatus due to the holidays (and no real internet connection), but time to get back into the swing of things!  Here's what I got for Christmas!


I FINALLY GOT THE HUNGER GAMES

I've already read the first two, and I AM IN LOVE WITH THEM!  The HTB got these for me - I was only expecting the first book, so I went super squee when I saw that he got be the boxed set.  I also got a bunch of B&N gift cards, so you know what that means!  Times to get my Nook! 

Can't you tell I'm so flipping excited for these books and the Nook!  Hope you had a fabulous Christmas filled with literary goodness!

So, what's in your mailbox?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Thursday Literary News Roundup (7)

The Thursday Literary News Roundup 


Blog Posts of Note:

Jamie over at the Perpetual Page-Turner had a fantastic discussion going last Friday with her regular feature, 'Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down' - the topic was requiring a follow for a giveaway.  If you missed it, be sure to go check it out!

Special thanks to Kristi at The Story Siren for tweeting this post from ShePosts: Are Bloggers Conducting Illegal Lotteries?  Excellent food for thought on the legalities of the giveaways we host.

Holly Cupala posted a great interview with Fall for Anything author Courtney Summers on her blog last week.  Fall for Anything just released this last Tuesday.

Tara from hobbitsies also scored a wonderful interview with Lorraine Zago Rosenthal, author of the soon-to-be released Other Words for Love.

Vickie over at Navigating the Slush Pile started a great conversation on the appropriate place of sex in YA lit.

Jen at Makeshift Bookmark has a wonderful discussion going on at her blog: "Blogger "Voices:" Is There a Right and Wrong Kind?"

YA Book Reads posted a list of Top Ten LGBT characters in YA Lit - included on the list are Professor Dumbledore, and Magnus and Alec from The Mortal Instruments.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes and Ally Carter both recently worked together and came up with their list of 2011 YA trends after Scholastic posted their list of notable trends from 2010.


Chelsea at The Page Flipper gave a lovely review on A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler: "The premise is simple: it's a contemporary about a girl whose mother has schizophrenia. But that's the only thing that's simple about this book. It was complex, detailed, alive."






I found a fantastic new blog to follow this week.  A Take of Many Reviews wrote this glowing review of the The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith: "  The style of this book is eloquent, creating such a beautiful world and story with just words. Steampunk is not usually a visually beautiful world with its machines and steam powered alternate history. Despite a broken and bleak world in which this book takes place, the story of vampires and humans in a struggle for domination is nothing less than beautiful."



Kelly J. from Stacked wrote a beautiful, honest review of Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers: "Fall for Anything is unapologetic. Hand this to readers looking for edgy, thought-provoking, raw reads."  Book Chic also reviewed and had this, in part, to say: "I'm not sure what to say about this book. I did enjoy reading it, like I do all of Courtney's books, but at the same time, I felt like something was missing. This book released on Tuesday. Cinette at Musings-of a Writer-in-Progress also had a wonderful interview with Courtney.



Both Kristi at The Story Siren and Danny at Bewitched Bookworms wrote up very favorable reviews of Nevermore by Kelly Creagh.  Check out their blogs for their thoughts!



Amy at A Simple Love of Reading wrote up a positive review of Trance by Linda Gerber: "From the very beginning of this book Linda Gerber drew me right into Ashlyn’s story. The mysteries of her visions play a strong role in the book almost as if they themselves are a character."  


Still haven't read Nightshade by Andrea Cremer?  Take a look at this fantastic review by Rummanah Aasi over at Books in the Spotlight: "Nightshade may sound like an ordinary paranormal romance with a forbidden love story, however, its supreme world building, mythology, and intrigue sets this book apart."  She and I are in perfect agreement!



And I officially love Cicely Loves Books - check out her opening line for a review on the upcoming Angelfire by Courtney Allison Molton: "I Loved this book.  I know I love a lot of books, but this book was awesome.  No, not just awesome, this book was Bad-Ass.  And I loved it so much for that, because I haven't read a bad-ass book in a long time."  Gotta love that honesty.  Angelfire releases in February. 


Lauren at I was a Teenage Book Geek wrote a beautiful review on Her and Me and You by Lauren Starsnick, a book I never heard of before: "From casual beginning to the enigmatic final pages, this is a book that packs an emotional punch far above its weight."  It just released in October.



Vee at Musty Pages gave a wonderfully detailed review of Artichoke Heart by Suzanne Supplee: "Suzanne Supplee's Artichoke's Heart is a sweetly written novel, with a strong emotional core and a character arc that will leave you cheering.



Kaitlin over at Scarrlet Reader gave a glowing review on the upcoming March release Falling Under by Gwen Hayes: "Very dramatic and mysterious beginning and I immediately wanted to know more about Theia and the hauntingly, handsome man that haunted her dreams."


The Redheaded Reviewer over at Small Review gave a fabulous review of the upcoming March release The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell: "I was completely captivated. My mind was racing with questions right from the start. What happened to Amelia? What drove her mad? What is the nature of the tragedy? The dark allusions to cursed visions pulled me in further. I couldn’t wait to find out the story surrounding these visions and how the paranormal aspect would be woven into the story."


Articles to Read:

The New York Public Library has posted links to several lists with 2010's best young adult books, including the The YA YA YAs - congrats on the shoutout!

The BookSeller.com reports steampunk author Scott Harrison has teamed up with others to start a charity e-book organization - sounds like a great idea!  Check it out: Charity e-book company launched

Oh No They Didn't reported which book MTV viewers voted on as being the best YA of 2010.

The LA Times Book Critic, David Ulin, wrote this essay for the newspaper's book blog, Jacket Cover: "E-books are good news for the literary world".
Have you been wondering about what's going on with Barnes & Noble and Borders?  Here's sentence from Reuters that will make you wonder some more: "In the latest chapter, Barnes & Noble Inc has put itself up for sale, while Borders Group Inc has put its hand out to lenders in hopes of avoiding a cash shortfall early next year."  Click here for more.

Remember the blurb I put in last week about the updates to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's 2010: E-Book Buyer's Guide to E-Book PrivacyNPR did a recent feature stemming from that same thought on All Things Considered: Is Your E-Book Reading Up On You?  Both audio and an article are included.  However, that piece is receiving some criticism.  Check out this response from Lucy Kogler of Talking Leaves, an independent New York State bookshop, as reported by Shelf Awareness. '

NPR also did a second story e-readers for their Talk of the Nation program: E-Book Boom Changes Book Selling And Publishing

Great article by Terry Jones at the O'Reilly Radar: "The future of publishing is writable". Here's a blurb: "Even seen from this outer limit of generality, it's clear that digital is ushering in a rapid convergence in publishing. While some forms are born digital and online, others are being reinvented there as technological advance sets old media free. There is massive disruption -- both behind and ahead of us -- as the convergence continues."

CBS News did a wonderful piece on "Judging Books by Their Covers" - all about the design process and what might happen as more things go digital.

Okay, I don't own stock in NPR - they just had a lot of good stories this week!  Here's another: Weird And Wonderful Books: 2010's Hidden Gems

Nicole Russell wrote a piece for The American Spectator: "Kids Are Reading. . . Junk". I'm really interesting in hearing your opinions on this one!  Sometimes, I see her point; at other times, I get rather perturbed.  What are your thoughts?  Here's a sample: "Unfortunately, many of the books published in the YA category that readers are devouring at higher rates than their adult counterparts are either poorly written, communicate "adult" themes to a audience of minors, or demonstrate conflicting (if any) moral principles."  I wonder if Ms. Russell would enjoy the Night Huntress series - I shall send her a copy of book one!

The Library Journal posted about the best YA lit for adults in 2010.

Nice article from Publisher's Weekly on some YA authors who made promising debuts in 2010.

The Daily Beast also chose its Best YA novels of 2010, too - great list!

Flavorwire.com is starting a new series in which they make a playlist for a particular character: "If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more!"  Check it out: first up is Holden Caulfield. 

Looking to get published and scared of the reject letters?  Take heart, you aren't alone, even amongst the greats.  mental_floss published this enlightening and entertaining post: Try, Try Again: Rejection Letters Received by Bestselling Authors


Buzz: Books & Otherwise

Two adult paranormal authors who are SO incredibly flipping kind to their fans released first chapter previews of the their upcoming books.  Charlaine Harris released Chapter One of the next book in the Southern Vampire Mystery series, Dead Reckoning.  Click here, look at the middle column at the top of the page, and click the link that says 'Chp. 1: Dead Reckoning'.  Katie MacAlister also released the first chapter of the upcoming Dragon Sept/Baltic book, The Unbearable Lightness of Dragons.  Click here, and then click on 'Read an Except'.  Don't you just love that cover?  Enjoy!

Who will play Katniss?  14-year-old actress Hailee Steinfeld apparently is receiving some buzz for the part - check out this article from MTV in which Hailee talks about how she feels about the possibility.  However, the LA Times had this headline: ‘The Hunger Games’ star search: ‘There are no front-runners yet’

Meanwhile, The Hunger Games director Gary Ross hinted to Entertainment Weekly that casting decisions may be announced soon for certain characters.  Excitement!

For all Charlaine Harris fans, Penguin just launched her very own page on their website - check out the Holiday Sweepstakes - runs until January 3rd!

New YA book series alert!  Bloomsbury just brokered a two-book deal with former tennis star Monica Seles, according to Publushers Weekly.

Ohhh Steampunk fans, this looks awesome.  Check out io9's report on the upcoming film, 1884: Terry Gilliam's next project takes you into the Steampunk Britain of 1884.

That's it for this week, kids!  More news and fun stuff to come next week!

If you have any thoughts or suggestions for The Thursday Literary New Roundup, feel free to comment or email me at bibliophile.brouhaha@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

REVIEW: Hush by Eishes Chayil

By Eishes Chayil
Published 09.14.2010
Walker Books for Young Readers
368 pages
*This book has been shortlisted for the 2010 William C. Morris Award

Synopsis

Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where most Chassidim live, the rules of life are very clear, determined by an ancient script written thousands of years before down to the last detail—and abuse has never been a part of it. But when thirteen-year-old Gittel learns of the abuse her best friend has suffered at the hands of her own family member, the adults in her community try to persuade Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. Forced to remain silent, Gittel begins to question everything she was raised to believe.
 
A richly detailed and nuanced book, one of both humor and depth, understanding and horror, this story explains a complex world that remains an echo of its past, and illuminates the conflict between yesterday's traditions and today's reality.

*Please note: the girls are nine, not thirteen.  I believe the synopsis is wrong.

REVIEW: Do you remember studying the Holocaust in grade school?  There was a famous saying that you probably learned:

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
—Martin Niemoeller

Niemoeller’s immortal and pointed statement on the dangers of political and moral apathy could easily be applied to the small, sequestered community that Gittel and her dearest friend, Devory, live in, located in Brooklyn, NYC.  This is a community of ulra-orthodox Jews, and reading Hush is like stepping into a world that you know exists, but the customs and beliefs that they practice are, on the whole, far more foreign than familiar.  This story essentially is about three things: a beautiful and enduring friendship between two little girls, a community who hurts its most innocent members in a misdirected and fatal attempt at protecting itself, and how ignorance and fear condemns victims, not the perpetrators.

Central to the story are Gittel (the narrator) and Devory.  They were born on the same day at the same hospital and have been best friends ever since.  Gittel is a wonderful narrator, and the best way I can describe her is that she’s a cross between Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird and Eloise from Eloise.  She is spunky, energetic, and makes observations that are profound in the eyes of a nine-year-old, but ironic and whimsical to the reader.  Devory is a bit wilder and often acts out.  There is a good reason why she does: Devory is being sexually molested by an older family member.  Devory does not have a word to explain what is happening to her.  She has nothing to call it.  Such things do not exist in their world, the world of the chosen people, all of whom are going to Heaven.  It’s only when Devory’s behavior deteriorates and Gittel witnesses the abuse that things come to a head.

The story is separated into two sections.  In the first section, the narrative flips back and forth between 1999- 2000, when the girls are nine, and 2008, when Gittel is preparing to graduate from high school and looking forward to becoming engaged.  Devory is no longer there.  Gittel communicates with her by letter throughout the book.  It’s the only way she can communicate with Devory.  You learn on the first page of the story that Devory is dead.

This is a multi-layered story with no easy answers and many victims.  The community is a well-oiled machine, and social reputation and placement are everything.  In the everyday status quo, there is a lot of love and security in the community, and you see this especially in the relationship between Gittel and her father.  The also pride themselves on taking care of their own and providing for the least of their community.  However, they are distinctly uncharitable toward those who do not act in a proper way, come from a family with a bad history, or who could in any way bring shame upon a family or the community at large.  Thus, when something shameful happens, it is hushed up rather than dealt with.  By default, Devory is condemned to death.  People knew something was wrong.  Not one person told the absolute truth, but they knew enough to help her if they wanted to admit what was going on.  The stakes are high – speaking out against your fellow Jew literally is a horrible sin, an absolute evil.  When someone does try to speak out about something, they bring shame upon themselves and their families.  At the least, the community will completely ostracize them; at worst, they may be physically attacked.  Gittel spends a good amount the book dealing with her guilt, growing to adulthood with her frozen-in-time best friend haunting her dreams and sharing her thoughts. 

It’s not all doom and gloom.  There truly is a sense of community here, and the friendship that Gittel and Devory have is enduring, charming and a beautiful thing that you will enjoy watching grow.  An extremely important person in the story is Kathy, a ‘gentile’ woman who lives in a rented apartment in Gittel’s home.  She is the keystone in this story, and if it were not for her, neither girl would have much exposure to the outside, nor would Gittel ever find a way out of her pain.  It’s also a fascinating look inside a community that one rarely gets a glance into, and the author is brave for shedding light on it and its darker issues.  ‘Eisher Chayil’ is a pen name, and you will learn in the book that it means ‘Woman of Valor’.  I’ve read some review where readers think this is pretentious.  I disagree – I think the author is stating what she thinks is ‘true’ valor, and this book is her attempt at living up to her own standards.  I don’t blame her for not signing her real name to it; in all likelihood, she probably still lives in this community, and she and her family likely would face expulsion from it if she was ever connected with this book.    

This is a well-written book full of the kind of humor that only happens when two worlds collide, and the childish observations that Gittel makes between her world and the modern, secular one will make you laugh.  It also has plenty of bittersweet moments, ironical observations and desperate emotions.  You will identify with the feeling of friendship, family and community, but will be engrossed and educated in the aspects of another culture.  If you like dystopian literature, this may actually be a book for you – even though it is set in ‘real life’, outside influences are carefully controlled, the customs are foreign, the marriages are arranged, and romantic love is a ridiculous notion that only outsiders believe in.  There are many Yiddish phrases throughout the book, so please be aware that there is a glossary at the end to help you out.  I advise reading it before you start the story, and this is most definitely a story worth reading.  It’s heartbreaking, poignant and promising, and reaffirms the belief that ignorance and apathy are the enemies of truth and justice.

Waiting on Wednesday (9)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.  I highly encourage you to get to know your fellow bloggers and see what's new and upcoming in the book world!

Here's what I'm waiting on:

Across the Universe

by Beth Revis
Releases 01.11.2011

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone--one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship--tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

So, what are you waiting on?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop


The Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop is hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer!  This is a two day hop and the entry form is available now until midnight, Wednesday, December 23rd.  This contest is open internationally, so I welcome any and all entrants.  Since nothing says Happy Holidays like vampires, I am giving away copies of the first two books from the House of Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast: Marked and Betrayed.  If you've never tried this great paranormal series, here's your chance!

Rules are simple:
I'll need your name and your email address.  You do not have to be a follower to enter this giveaway, although an extra entry is available if you are!  A winner will be chosen by Random.org.  If you are the winner, you will have 48 hours to respond to an email with your address.  If you do not, a new winner will be selected.  Good luck!


THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The 2011 Debut Author Challenge


Whew!  This will be the last challenge that I sign up for in 2011.  No, wait, that's a lie - I am also thinking of the British Book Challenge. . . but back to the subject at hand.  2011 will be my first full calendar year in the blogging community and the first year I participate in The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge.  I'm so excited to get started and discover some great new authors!  Here are the titles I have earmarked to read:


Unearthly by Cynthia Hand


XVI by Julia Karr


Across the Universe by Beth Revis


Wither by Lauren DeStefano


Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys


Exposed by Kimberly Marcus




Subway Girl by P.J. Converse


Like Mandarin by Kristen Hubbard


The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens


Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard


Bestest. Ramadan  Ever. by Medeia Sharif


Possession by Elana Johnson

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Aussie YA Reading Challenge 2011


I'm doing it!  I am officially signing up for the 2011 Aussie YA Reading Challenge.  Why?  Well, ever since I read Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar and have heard wonderful things about various AU books from some awesome Aussie bloggers, I have to throw my hat in.  I'm getting an e-reader soon, so the six book goal set for non-Aussie readers is more than doable.  I'm so excited to get started after the New Year, and I encourage you to join me!  BTW, if you have a Nook, I am more than happy to swap books with you to make this easier :)  If you are interested in learning more, please visit Nic's blog, Irresistible Reads for more information.

In no particular order, here's what I am thinking of reading to meet my 2011 goal:


Saltwater Vampire by Kirsty Eagar


On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta


The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta


Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley


Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams


Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher

The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock