Showing posts with label rochester teen book festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rochester teen book festival. Show all posts

Thursday, June 5, 2014

May 2014 in Review

Howdy, reader friends!  And welcome to June.  I can feel summer in the air!  And because I am the parent of a toddler, that only reminds me of one thing!
Because Frozen rules my life.
But, in addition to listening to Small Fry use his "deep voice" to sing In Summer to me 10 times a day, I am also looking forward to some reading in the sunshine.  Ahhhhh.

Let's recap May!

In May I read/reviewed 5 books:
One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern
Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro
Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
Glass by Ellen Hopkins
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

I also gave you a teaser for my upcoming review of Pooja Mottl's The 3-Day Reset, and I managed my one non-review post of the month when I recapped my fabulous day at the Rochester Teen Book Festival.

Making time to write that one non-review post for the month was tough, but fun to do.  It's nice to get out of the review cycle sometimes.  I wanted to do the 6 Degrees of Separation meme that several people suggested to me, but didn't have time.  Maybe for June?  Does anyone know the book this month?

One other book-related change of note: I am on a temporary hiatus from all ARC reviews, including those with TLC Book Tours.  As much as I love TLC, I am reading at a really slow pace (for me) these days, and it's making it hard to get my reviews posted on time.  I want to at least take the next few months off from ARCs, so that I can use the summer to just read books from my own TBR.  You know, the thing I said I was going to do at the beginning of the year??  Yeah, I want to actually do that.  And now that my half marathon training is starting soon (June 30th!  ACK), I want my bloggy stuff to be really low-pressure for a while.

So let's go enjoy summer!!

Got any great warm-weather plans coming up, my friends??

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Review: Glass by Ellen Hopkins


Title: Glass (Crank trilogy #2)
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: August 21, 2007
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Crank. Glass. Ice. Crystal. Whatever you call it, it's all the same: a monster. And once it's got hold of you, this monster will never let you go.
Kristina thinks she can control it. Now with a baby to care for, she's determined to be the one deciding when and how much, the one calling the shots. But the monster is too strong, and before she knows it, Kristina is back in its grips. She needs the monster to keep going, to face the pressures of day-to-day life. She needs it to feel alive.
Once again the monster takes over Kristina's life and she will do anything for it, including giving up the one person who gives her the unconditional love she craves -- her baby.
The sequel to Crank, this is the continuing story of Kristina and her descent back to hell. Told in verse, it's a harrowing and disturbing look at addiction and the damage that it inflicts.

My Review:

As with any review of a second or third book in a trilogy, I shall warn you: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS from book #1 (Crank).  You can check out my Crank review here.

Got that out of the way?  Good!  On to Glass.

This review won't be terribly long, because Glass is similar to Crank in so many ways.  It is told from Kristina's perspective again, in verse, but this time she's given birth to her son Hunter, and she's been clean for a while as a result.  She's trying hard to be a good mom and finish her high school education.  Unfortunately, that doesn't last long, as she gets reintroduced to drugs via crystal meth.  The results are, as you'd expect, disastrous.  And I'd say Kristina's descent into drug-fueled mayhem is about 1000 times worse this time around, because now there's an infant thrown into the mix.

The transition from Crank to Glass is so smooth, you'll feel like you've just continued reading the same book.  Kristina's voice is very similar, her drug-induced disasters reminding you of her past mistakes.  However, the big difference here is that in Glass, Kristina no longer struggles as much between her "Kristina" and "Bree" personas.  She has very nearly given herself over to "Bree" completely...or at least, Bree wins out much more easily than she ever did before.  There's a sense of hopelessness that is much deeper than what you'll experience in the first book.

As with Crank, Glass hits you that much harder when you realize that it's based on a true story--that of Ellen Hopkins' own daughter, Cristal.  When I went to the Rochester Teen Book Festival, Hopkins indicated that Crank is about 40% fact, based on her recreation of Cristal's slide into addiction.  However, Glass is even closer to the truth, as Hopkins was able to discuss this period of her daughter's life directly with Cristal in between prison sentences.  I won't tell you all the other updates she gave about Cristal's life (I'll save those for after the last book, so as not to spoil this one), but hers is a very upsetting story indeed.  Hopkins illustrates that sadness in great detail through this trilogy.

If Crank was good, I daresay Glass is better.  Not light reading by any means, but these are important books, especially for those struggling with addiction (or those who know an addict).  Stay tuned for book #3, Fallout...

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??

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Book Review: Crank by Ellen Hopkins


Title: Crank
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: October 1, 2004
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

In Crank, Ellen Hopkins chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the "monster," the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or "crank." Kristina is introduced to the drug while visiting her largely absent and ne'er-do-well father. While under the influence of the monster, Kristina discovers her sexy alter-ego, Bree: "there is no perfect daughter, / no gifted high school junior, / no Kristina Georgia Snow. / There is only Bree." Bree will do all the things good girl Kristina won't, including attracting the attention of dangerous boys who can provide her with a steady flow of crank.


My Review:

OK, I'm going to start with three quick, random points before I get to the actual review.  First: this book is 537 pages long, and I devoured it in less than 24 hours.  (Reminder: stay a home mom. Two young kids. Barely enough time to tie my own shoes most days.)  IT'S THAT GOOD.

Second: this is a book about a girl who develops a meth addiction in Albuquerque.  What, exactly, is the deal with meth in Albuquerque?
Breaking Bad? Anybody?
Third: you may have guessed it...this is YA, another read from an author that will be at the Rochester Teen Book Festival.  I was especially excited to see Ellen Hopkins on the list, because I've heard buzz about her novels for years now.  However, this is the first one I've ever picked up.  And now I know that the hype is justified.

Crank is written from Kristina/Bree's perspective, in verse.  At first I wasn't sure about a book that was written as a poem, but I didn't have to be worried at all--the poetry is not lyrical or rhyming, so it's not like 500+ pages of singsong-type storytelling.  But the poetic structure is still essential, because it makes Kristina's story more...edgy, somehow.  It illustrates her journey in a way that regular ol' prose would not.  (Also explains my ability to read this in a day...short lines of verse, way easier to read than dense pages of paragraphs.)  Overall I think this was an awesome structural choice by Hopkins, and it definitely makes the book stand out in a crowd.

Aside from the poetic structure, Crank is powerful because Kristina's downward spiral into drug-fueled hell feels so disturbingly realistic.  (And sadly, that is likely because it is based on Hopkins' own daughter, who battled a terrible drug addiction for many years.)  Kristina is not an underprivileged girl, a troublemaker, promiscuous.  No, she is a straight-A do-gooder, no boyfriends to speak of, walking the straight and narrow.  And this makes her downfall that much more horrific.  It's like that saying about the traffic accident that you drive by and can't look away--that's what reading Crank feels like.

This book is raw, emotional, sad...and I'm already a third of the way through its sequel (Glass), with the third installment of the trilogy (Fallout) waiting on my nightstand.  DEVOUR THIS.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Review: Croak by Gina Damico


Title: Croak
Author: Gina Damico
Publisher: Graphia Books
Publication Date: March 20, 2012
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex's parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape.

But Uncle Mort's true occupation is much dirtier than shoveling manure. He's a Grim Reaper. And he's going to teach Lex the family business.

She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can't stop her desire for justice - or is it vengeance? - whenever she encounters a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again.

Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?


My Review:

Yet another great young adult read in preparation for the Rochester Teen Book Festival!  So far I have really lucked out with the awesome authors I've been introduced to as I work my way through books for the event.

I saw Croak doing the blog rounds back when I started my little webspace here in 2012.  I remember seeing a lot of good reviews, but at the time I wasn't in much of a YA mood, so I skipped it.  However, when I saw that Gina Damico was going to be at TBF, I figured it was time to give this book a try.  Admittedly, I was a little skeptical at first...this is borderline with the YA paranormal genre, which I have been HIGHLY leery of since Twilight.  But I'm happy to report that my reservations were unfounded.

Croak gave me so much to love.  First you have Lex, your highly volatile, rude, humorous, and smart protagonist.  She has a harder core than most other teenage main characters, which is probably why I liked her so much.  Plus, she does have a love interest in this novel, but thankfully it's not all schmoopy-doopy, which I cannot stand in YA books (OMG, Bella and Edward, give me a BREAK).

But the very best thing about Croak is the world-building.  Damico has come up with one of the most interesting interpretations of the afterlife that I've ever encountered.  It does make me laugh a little--the idea of a tiny town in the Adirondacks where Grim Reapers live, quietly storing the souls of all the dead as unassuming hikers and tourists live around them.  But Damico gives it such a clear backstory that it's hard not to find it believable.

The only bummer about this book?  I had no idea (until the end) that it's part of a TRILOGY!  GAHHHHH.  Here I was, expecting a nice wrapped-up ending, and instead I earned myself a cliffhanger and two more books on my TBR list.  Ah well.  Given how much I liked Croak, I'm definitely going to have to track down Scorch and Rogue (books 2 and 3) ASAP.

Don't fear the reaper, readers!  Have you read any books that have interesting interpretations of the afterlife?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Review: Ask The Passengers by A.S. King


Title: Ask The Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: October 23, 2012
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.

My Review:

Oh man, I forgot how much I enjoy a really good, fo' serious YA novel.  I read a few in the last year or two, and they were okay, but many are so focused on angsty boy-meets-girl plotlines that they felt more like fluff reads than anything else.  But then I got my socks knocked off by Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls, so I decided to follow that up with Ask The Passengers.  GREAT CHOICE.  This is the first time I've read anything by A.S. King, but it certainly won't be the last!  And I'm now very excited to meet her at the Rochester Teen Book Festival in May.

I hereby declare that this book should be required reading for adolescents.  Not just those that are questioning their sexuality, but ALL teens.  Because Astrid goes through some pretty awful bullying as her sexual identity becomes more public.  I sometimes lose sight of the fact that not everyone grows up in an area like mine, where views on the LGBTQ lifestyle are generally accepting.  (I say generally because...as we all know, there are haters everywhere.  Unfortunately.)  I had friends that came out in high school, and it didn't create nearly the ripples (more like tidal waves) that Astrid has to face in the close-minded community of Unity Valley.  This book is great for any teenager in the midst of their sexual-identity journey, as well as those who want to understand how to better support their friends and family members going through such an exploration.

What makes this stand out in YA LGBTQ literature?  Number one is Astrid.  She is such a great character.  She's often snarky and sarcastic, despite the difficult issues she's constantly facing.  Plus, her frank discussions about sexuality are refreshing (and the primary reason why I think all teens should read this).  I love her habit of "sending love" to the passengers of airplanes that she sees flying above her.  At first, I didn't know what to make of that ritual, but I like how King uses it as a way to explore the relationship problems that many of the passengers themselves are facing (she often segues to little side-stories about the passengers that Astrid has "sent her love" to).  This whole idea gives the book a unique premise, something more than your average YA novel.

GAH, you guys!!  Are all the Rochester TBF authors going to be this good?  Ask The Passengers was an awesome read, and has made me want to be all BFF-like with the YA genre again...for a little while, at least.  :)

Readers: have you read any other books that tackle teen LGBTQ issues in a powerful way?

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?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rochester Teen Book Festival: PREPARATION STAGE!

Hello, my lovelies!  I know, still pretty MIA over here.  Tater Tot is starting to be less Sleepy Baby and more Awake Baby, and Small Fry is still Insane Toddler, so I've been rather busy.  Still reading the same two books...convinced I will turn 90 before I finish The Goldfinch...but we're getting there.

In the meantime, I'm putting my Christmas money to good use.  Thanks to Katie at Doing Dewey, I found out about the Rochester Teen Book Festival, taking place this year on May 17.  I looked into it, and I am SO EXCITED that this event is basically going on in my backyard.  They have a really awesome lineup of authors coming this year, and I can't wait to go!

But what is a book festival without books to be signed??

Therefore, please lay eyes on my book haul in prep for Rochester TBF:
(I know I could buy them at the festival and some of the proceeds would go back to the event, but...sorry, I had Amazon gift cards, and I'm cheap.  GOT MOUTHS TO FEED, Y'ALL.)

I have heard of all of these books/authors but, astoundingly, never read any of them!  (Actually, I did read The Last Summer of You and Me by Ann Brashares a while back, but I gave away my copy, so I decided to buy Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants instead.)  My goal before May 17 is to read them all, and then get them signed.  WOO!!

How about you, readers?  Attending any great book festivals this year?  (Don't even tell me if you're going to BEA, cuz I'm totes jealous.)  And if you're going to TBF, let me know!!
 
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