Last night was the Soho Teen Launch Party. Soho Teen is a new imprint from Soho Press, and it looks like it has some exciting new books coming out. I was invited via my YAcker buddy Nicole from Word for Teens (and I also got to meet her for the first time). The place was packed with people. A little overwhelming, but I still had a nice time. Highlight was seeing Libba Bray rock it with her band Tiger Beat (especially when she sang YA song, accompanied by David Levithan holding up placards with the lyrics on them). I had a hard time getting non-blurry pictures because of the lighting, and I may have been laughing… there are videos of this song on youtube if you want to hear it.
Geektastic is an anthology of geek related stories. According to the charming Editors’ note, the idea was formed after Comic Con, where, in line for a burrito, Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci discussed what would happen if “you were a Jedi and you woke up with a Klingon in your bed” (the first story in this anthology). It’s a fun concept, and this book has different varieties of geeks represented. Although some stories have me thinking the idea was better than the realization, it was cool to see how many big names in the YA genre have geek cred.
Throughout the anthology are one page comics illustrated by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley about geeks like “How to Hook Up at the Science Fair”, “What your instrument says about you” and “Top Five Words or Phrases You Need to Know in Klingon” – these were amusing and nice breakpoints between stories.
Really quick reviews follow (My favorites were by David Levithan, Lisa Lee, Wendy Mass and Cassandra Clare):
1) Once You’re a Jedi, You’re a Jedi All the Way by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci: A Jedi and a Klingon wake up together in the same hotel room. Overall: OK. Funny and cute in a very geeky way. I enjoyed picturing the melee described here, but seems to focus more on Jedi vs. Klingon than their story.
2) One of Us by Tracy Lynn: A cheerleader tries to learn more about her football player boyfriend’s interests in geeky things by taking “lessons” from the the high school Genre and Nonsense Club – This one was like a primer into geekdom as each member of the club highlighted a particular aspect. Chock full of geek references, maybe too many, but ends nicely.
3) Definitional Chaos by Scott Westerfeld: A gamer responsible for bringing Con money to a hotel in Florida gets saddled with his crazy ex-girlfriend on the trip. The story seemed to focus on the idea of alignment, both in games and offline, and I found that aspect hard to connect to. This one took me a while to read because I kept putting it down.
4) I Never by Cassandra Clare: A girl and her friend who role play online as their favorite characters meet some other players of The Game in real life. Of course online characters differ greatly from their real life ones. A bit of a predictable Liking the Wrong Boy story, but ends up rather sweet.
5) The King of Pelinesse by M. T. Anderson: A boy discovers his mom gets love letters from one of his favorite fantasy authors and takes a trip to meet him. Um.. rather weird and somewhat creepy and sad. I’m pondering if this is saying something about certain fantasy authors or if it’s revealing the negative side of geekiness. Not sure.
6) The Wrath of Dawn by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith: A girl named Dawn attends a Buffy screening where people interact with the movie much like people do with Rocky Horror, and objects to the way the character Dawn seems universally despised. My reaction to this was “Eh”. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t move me.
7) Quiz Bowl Antichrist by David Levithan: A gay teen is part of his school’s quiz bowl team and butts heads constantly with the team leader while harboring a crush on another teammember. Told in the first person, this teens sarcastic observations had me chuckling. There were also some painful situations. This was probably my favorite short story.
8 ) The Quiet Knight by Garth Nix: Tony, a loner kid spends his time live action roleplaying as the Quiet Knight, and wondering what the Quiet Knight would do helps him come out of his shell. This was alright, sweet, but short.
9) Everyone But You by Lisa Lee: Felicity has just moved from Ohio to Hawaii, going from her High schools’ MIss Pep to No one she feels out of place and invisible. This is another growing pains sort of story and another one of my favorites. I also liked the details of Hawaii that the locals know about.
10) Secret Identity by Kelly Link: Written as a letter from a teenaged girl to someone named Paul Zell. She alternates between writing in the first and third person about herself, but I figured she met him online in a game called FarAway and they were to meet in real life at a New York City Hotel but he doesn’t show. This is a confusing story which was almost a DNF, but it did get better once I realized she was serious about the superheroes in the lobby and ignored the changing POV. In the end it left me wanting to know who Paul Zell really was, but I didn’t like the shifts in POV at all.
11) Freak the Geek by John Green: Two best friends, outcasts in a all girls high school are the targets for a school tradition to haze two geeks for a day. A nice friendship story, with I think a lighter dusting of geekiness. Left me with a warm fuzzy. One comment: Pokemon? I thought that was only a fad in the nineties?
12) The Truth about Dino Girl by Barry Lyga: Katherine loves dinosaurs and spouts off knowledge about them to her best friend Sooz, an artist in the making, but lately her obsessive nature has a new target – an unattainable guy with a perfect girlfriend. An illustration that evolution can favor the little guys too, but I thought Katherine’s “revenge” was hypocritical and crossed a line.
13) This is My Audition Monologue by Sara Zarr: A monologue by Rachel Banks arguing why she should finally get a part as cast in the latest theater production and not be shuffled off into the crew. Rambly, embarrassing, ambitious, geeky, desperate and defiant all rolled into one. I liked and disliked it for those reasons. I wonder if she got a part.
14) The Stars at the Finish Line by Wendy Mass: The narrator, Peter, has had a crush on Tabitha Bell since they were in grade school. When she declares her ambition of being an astronaut when she was nine, so does he, and the rivalry began. Eight years later, Peter still has his crush and Tabitha still thinks he’s her biggest competition. Astronomy geeks, very cute. Another favorite.
15) It’s Just a Jump to the Left by Libba Bray: Leta and Agnes have been friends for a long time and friday night at the Rocky Horror Picture Show is their thing. Unfortunately things don’t always stay the same. Agnes gets a boyfriend and Leta feels left behind. This gave off a very nostalgic, teens-in-the-seventies vibe. I thought it had interesting things to say about geekiness and it’s relationship with identity, friendship, and coping with life. Liked it.
SciFiChick has 3 copies of Geektastic she’s giving away (contest ends August 22nd)
Rachel Cohen is a new to me author but I've read David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy and The Realm of Possibility and enjoyed them. I've been hearing buzzing over this book for a while now, but it went on my "I really want to read this" list when I read the review on Dear Author.
This is one of my favorite reads of last year.
Obviously from the title, this book is about two people – Nick and Norah. Nick is a bass player for a queercore (whatever that is) band and was dumped three weeks ago by his girlfriend Tris. He's still reeling over this blow when he meets Norah at one of his band's gigs, around the same time he glimpses Tris coming towards him with her new boyfriend. Desperate to save face he turns to Norah and asks her to be his girlfriend for 5 minutes. Norah is a smart talking daughter of a music executive who just happens to know Tris, and although Nick doesn't know it, she knows what Tris has done to him. What flows from that meeting is a fantastic night in New York City as two kids from New Jersey go on what ends up being an all night date. The book is narrated in first person past tense and switches between Nick and Norah's viewpoints, so we ride the ups and downs that happen during this night as they get to know each other.
Overall: This is one of those books with a young adult label that is an instant classic to me because it's written in such a way that a teen today could read this again in 20 years and still like the book. Even though the book is full of cursing from both characters and many music references, it doesn't exclude the reader or try too hard. Everything seems natural. It does deal with some sexual situations and of course colorful swearing which may alarm some parents but it also has straight-edge (no alcohol or drugs) protagonists, friends behaving responsibly, and refreshing writing. If you're still on the fence – go read this excerpt and you'll be able to decide pretty quickly if this is the book for you.
I wanted to read the book before the movie came out but in the end I saw the movie first. This is one of those times where I liked both the book and the movie, but the two are really different. There are some major plot differences in the two, and while the movie had more humor, the characters in the book were more like real people I could believe in. Rent the movie, buy the book! In the movie, Caroline, who seems to have a real drinking problem, is reduced to a humor device, and Tris, who was multifaceted in the book, became a stereotypical and manipulative barbie doll.
While I enjoyed the colorful side characters that orbited the main two, what I liked most were the characters of Nick and Norah. Norah was especially endearing. Of the two, Norah is at first the tough no-nonsense one to me, responsible and looking out for her drunk friend, but I realized that she's also scared because the only other relationship she had was with Tal, a boy who did a number on her self-esteem. She's a jewish girl who is spiritual in a cool way, and Nick's response to her feelings about her faith is thoughful, not condescending or patronizing. That conversation about her beliefs is an example of the give and take between the two characters that flowed perfectly once they let it. I could believe that these were the types of conversations you had with someone you had an instant connection with – random topics that provide insight into the other and last for hours and hours. Nick seems like the perfect foil to Norah. He's the even keeled one who complements Norah's volatility. When she freaks and runs, he doesn't understand, but he doesn't give up on her either. He's someone who turns out to be more persistent and dependable than she'd imagined. From the one night here, I could see that these two braving life together.
A lot of people are posting a year end post for 2008. It's nice to see people looking back at the books they read for the year and picking out their favorite reads, and it's interesting to see what they picked. I thought it would be a good thing to try myself because with it recorded, I can look back in later years and see what my tastes were like.
Out of a total of 77 books read this year, very few got into my best list, but book ratings are highly subjective. I just went with my gut and rated them according to how I felt about the book as soon as I finished reading them. These lists are compiled from ratings I put down in my private notes.
All the links to my reviews here are to my Livejournal.
The Books that Blew Me Away – These books are those I gave top marks to when I first read them. It's a very hard list to get onto because I have to feel like I'm falling in love and cannot be parted from the book for it to get on this list. Only three got on it this year.
- Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews (my review)
- Pride, Prejudice, and Jasmine Fields by Melissa Nathan (my review)
- Keeping it Real by Justina Robson (my review pt 1, pt 2)
Books that Came Close to Blowing Me Away – These came very close to getting top marks from me. This is a personal thing, but the books above I would put down and then obssessively think about when I could pick them up again. The books below, I didn't feel as consumed by the book, but still felt really impressed by them.
- Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
- Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready (my review)
- Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (I need to review this when I have the book in my hands)
- The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald (review coming soon)
Books I Really Liked/ Keepers. These each had several moments where I loved the book and overall I think these are books that deserve to be loved and read by others, but for some reason or other these didn't get into the top 7. I still consider these keepers, and all these authors are pretty much autobuys/ must read backlist authors. There are 19 of these books this year (Linnea Sinclair's name comes up a lot here, I was reading her backlist in 2008):
- The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
- Exit Strategy (Nadia Stafford, Bk 1) by Kelley Armstrong (my review)
- Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas (my review)
- Grimspace by Ann Aguirre (my review)
- An Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
- Urban Shaman by C. E. Murphy (my review)
- Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre (my review)
- Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Bk 1) by Patricia Briggs (my review)
- Easy Freedom by Liz Berry (my review)
- Jinx by Jennifer Estep (my review)
- Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
- Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair (my review pt 1, pt 2)
- The Good Neighbors by Holly Black (my review)
- The Nanny by Melissa Nathan (my review)
- Grave Sight (Harper Connelly, Bk 1) by Charlaine Harris (my review)
- Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (my review)
- Burndive by Karin Lowachee (my review)
- An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly, Bk 3) by Charlaine Harris (my review)
- The Decoy Princess and Princess at Sea by Dawn Cook (my review)
And for my New Year's Resolution – it's the same resolution as last year , to read 100 books.
- 2006 – 103 books
- 2007 - 99 books
- 2008 – 77 books
- 2009 – let's get it back up to 100!!