Showing posts with label laurie halse anderson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label laurie halse anderson. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2014!

The time has come!  Favorites must be declared!

Today, Month of Favorites participants are jumping in with the Top Ten Tuesday topic over at Broke and the Bookish: Top 10 Favorite Books of the Year.  In keeping with that, I figured there was no better day for me to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2014!

If you are a careful reader of my blog (and who isn't, RIGHT?), you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?

As in past years, this list is in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews:

1. The Three by Sarah Lotz
I know I said this list is in no particular order, but there might be a reason why this was the first one I threw on here.  I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK.

2. Man V. Nature by Diane Cook
I haven't read a collection of short stories this good in a very, very long time.  I find myself thinking about them a LOT.

3. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Is anyone surprised by me putting a Jodi Picoult novel on this list?  Noooooooooooope.

4. What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell
An intricately-woven family drama that explores the many complicated facets of relationships.  Cornwell's ability to smoothly blend several different story angles together still impresses me.

5. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
If there was ever a bitch that got shit done without caring what anyone else thought, it was Scarlett O'Hara.

6. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I know, jump on the bandwagon about a year late, right?  But it's just so, so good.  A major time commitment, but an epic in every sense of the word.

7. Above by Isla Morley
This book is excellent, but it earned a special bump onto this list because it has the distinction of being the book that I have successfully recommended to the most people after reading it.  "Successfully" meaning they raved about it afterwards, too.

8. The One & Only by Emily Giffin
Emily Giffin is pretty much always a winner for me.  I adore her ability to make readers sympathetic to what would normally be the undesirable side of a situation.  Such is the case with The One & Only.

9. The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson
To quote my own review: "complex characters, surprising twists, and intriguing relationships."  Plus beautiful writing to top it all off.

10. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
I read several good YA fiction novels this year, but Wintergirls has the distinction of being the best.  Anderson's writing is beautiful and poignant, and her handling of the topic of eating disorders is equal parts careful and impactful.

That does it for 2014!  In going over everything I read this year, I realized how many excellent books I enjoyed in the last 12 months.  A truly fantastic year for reading!

What made YOUR best-read list for 2014?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rochester Teen Book Festival RECAP!

Those of you that follow me on Twitter know that I spent this past Saturday at the Rochester Teen Book Festival in lovely Rochester, NY.  (Twitter followers know it best because I totally GOT MY LIVE-TWEET ON.  Woo wooooooo!)

To say that I had a good time would be an understatement.  This was my first time at this event, and I will totally be there again next year.  WITH a bigger book bag.  Let's recap.

I showed up around 10am for the opening ceremony.  The festival was at Nazareth College, and the opener was in their big gym.  It basically turned into a giant pep rally for the authors, which was pretty cool.  They played a little "Truth or Talent" game, where each author had to come up to the microphone and share a truth, or a random talent.  Please enjoy this photo of Jay Asher impersonating seaweed while Alethea Kontis and Amber Lough sing along:

And Joelle Charbonneau singing opera:

Also, let it be noted that at this point, I realized that the only people older than me in the audience were probably parents who brought their teens, and the authors themselves.  (Even that is debatable though, there were a bunch of teen authors there...)  LOL.  #sorrynotsorry

After the pep rally, the breakout sessions began.  It was SO HARD to choose between sessions, since there were so many good ones, but here are the four I attended with a small recap of each:

1. Laurie Halse Anderson

Irreverent, funny, outspoken.  Those are the three words I wrote down after Anderson's talk.  She discussed many questions that people had about her books, but more importantly, she wasn't afraid to make impassioned statements about touchy subjects like feminism, racism, alcoholism, and sexual abuse.  This was a very empowering session, especially for the teens in the audience.  So awesome.

Laurie Halse Anderson and moi.  Wish I knew she was making a crazy face so I could have gotten in on the action.  NO FAIR, LAURIE.
*Also: at this session I met up with the illustrious Katie from Doing Dewey!  My first time meeting a blog friend in real life!  We attended a few sessions together throughout the day and had a great time connecting in person.  Also, you should all know that she apologizes profusely for getting her Bout of Books post up late.  I witnessed her contrition as she was trying to post it via her smartphone.  LOL.
Book bloggers unite!
2. Ellen Hopkins

Another wonderful session.  Hopkins started with a reading from her upcoming book, Rumble (excellent!), and then gave updates about her daughter (who the Crank trilogy is based upon).  Wow, what disheartening stuff.  Her daughter is in prison yet again, and pregnant with her seventh baby.  She's now been battling addiction for 18 years.  Hopkins has custody of her daughter's oldest son (now 17) and her three youngest children (ages 4, 5, and 10).  Many have accused her of exploiting her daughter's story for her books, but Hopkins said this is not just her daughter's story--it is her story, her husband's story, her grandchildrens' story, etc. and she feels it is important to share that in order to keep young readers away from this life.

Afterwards, she asked the teens in the audience to share some concerns that they are dealing with in their own lives.  I was blown away by some of the situations these kids shared.  Sickness, abuse, etc...there was a lot of strength in that room.  A very heavy session indeed.

3. Gina Damico

After two discussions that were pretty serious and issue-based, I needed something a little lighter.  I knew Gina Damico would be just the ticket, since I loved the humor in Croak.  Gina was friendly, funny, and down-to-earth.  You can tell she's newer to the publishing world than the previous two authors I visited, and I don't mean that in a bad way.  She had a more carefree attitude that I imagine was inspiring for the aspiring teen writers in the audience.  She talked about her road to authorship, and then took questions about the book.  Lots of laughs and overall a good session for fans of her work.

4. A.S. King and Andrew Smith

For my last sessions, I was really torn between this one, and Jay Asher's.  I decided to go here because I adored King's Ask The Passengers, and I hadn't read anything of Smith's yet, so I figured it would open me up to some new material.  I'm so glad I made this choice!  Kind and Smith based their session on the idea of boxes--that is, how NOT to use them.  They discussed how to avoid "boxing people in", by things like race, gender, sexuality, etc.  They also argued that the same should be done for books.  For example, they both expressed frustration about the fact that they've published books that have gay characters, and then those book are automatically grouped as "gay literature" when really, the main themes of those novels had little to do with sexuality.  They encouraged readers to go into any book with an open mind, regardless of the genre you've been told the book falls into.  Great advice for any reader!  I was really impressed by their session and ended up buying Andrew Smith's Winger at the book sale later.

After the breakouts, it was book signing time!  I had my big ol' bag with me, and spent the full two hours waiting in lines.  In the end, this was my haul:

All of the authors I met were incredibly nice.  I am very socially awkward at signings (please refer to the embarrassment of my Dennis Lehane signing), so I didn't say much, other than a "how are you?" and "thanks so much!".  They were all very gracious though, and Laurie Halse Anderson was especially chatty (her line was AGES long as a result, but worth it!!).  However, I did ask Andrew Smith for training tips for my half marathon (he's completed a whole bunch of marathons and runs every day).  He seemed happy to share, saying that 13.1 miles is nothing (I suppose that's true when you run 26.2!) and that I should just enjoy the run.  Points well taken.  Now when I start getting tired and whiny at mile 5, I'll just imagine Andrew Smith in my mind yelling, "THIS IS NOTHING!!"  (I'm sure that's exactly what he intended.)
A.S. King during signings
There you have it, reader friends!  My first major book event, and I loved every minute.  You know what one of the best parts of the day was?  Seeing all these teenagers who were TOTALLY STOKED about reading!  The teens in the audience asked all the best questions during every session.  I saw one girl break into tears when she met Jay Asher in person for the first time.  Neal Shusterman had a pack of groupies with him every time I saw him walking between sessions.  The book love was EVERYWHERE.  These kids give me hope for the future of the literary world.

So, who's coming with me next year??

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson


Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: March 19, 2009
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.


Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.


My Review:

I was going to start off by telling you that this novel is "heavy" reading, then realized that could be seen as inappropriately punny.  So please trust me and take it in a completely no-pun-intended way when I tell you this is HEAVY STUFF.

I read Anderson's Speak many years ago, and I remember thinking that it was especially hard-hitting compared to other YA novels I had read.  I get really turned off by young adult novels that are too fluffy or romance-based, probably because I know that when I was a teen, that didn't feel reflective of my age bracket.  Adolescence seemed to carry more importance, and as an adult, I like it when YA authors have an appreciation for that feeling.

Anderson is one of the authors at the Rochester Teen Book Festival this year, so I decided to delve into another one of her books before the event.  Wintergirls gets fantastic reviews, and now I know that it's for a very good reason.  Anderson certainly has a talent for shining the light on difficult teenage issues, in a way that provides good reading for both YA and adult readers.

What stands out here?  Tops would have to be the imagery in Anderson's writing.  Her use of metaphors/similes is impressive, because done the wrong way, they could make the novel seem like it's trying too hard.  Instead, the way they are inserted in Lia's internal dialogue makes her words feel more...true, in a way.  They illustrate exactly how much her anorexia is making life crumble at her feet.

But the core of Anderson's success here is simply the clarity with which she is able to write about anorexia and bulimia.  This is, without question, the best fictional account of eating disorders that I've ever read, the one that has the truest understanding of those conditions.  When I say that this book could be life-changing for teenagers struggling with body image issues, I am not being grandiose.  That's a fact.

Wintergirls is easily one of most outstanding YA novels I've read in a very, very long time.  Get on it!

Readers: have you read any other books that tackle eating disorders in a powerful way?
 
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