Melina Marchetta, Kristin Cashore, and Gayle Forman at Books of Wonder

books of wonder logo

Last Tuesday evening there was an Author Interviews Author event at Books of Wonder featuring YA authors Melina Marchetta, Kristin Cashore, and Gayle Forman. Luckily for me, I live close enough that I was able to go and attend the event after work!

I was good too — I took copious notes for the blog during the interviews. Here’s the lowdown of two hours of authorly goodness. Please note that I don’t write that fast, so this shouldn’t be considered verbatim — just the general gist of the conversation. And sorry about my blurry photos, I politely turned off the flash and I think my 5 year old camera just isn’t that great in with low light.

Companion Novels
All three authors (who are all friends) noted that they have one thing in common besides writing young adult: they all wrote “companion novels”. Companion novels aren’t true sequels because they were told from a different point of view from the first book in the same world, and in some cases, could be read out of order. All three authors had a similar experience with their companion novels–they weren’t planned. Gayle Forman said she had no intention of writing Where She Went, and Melina Marchetta said she didn’t know there would be a sequel, she thought she was finished when she wrote Saving Francesca. The same with Finnikin of the Rock. Melina didn’t like Froi at first, she just thought he was a tool in her story. She didn’t realize that Froi would get a book until the next year. On the other hand, Quintana was always going to be in a sequel, once she had written 500 pages for Froi and realized there was no way she could end it just yet.

Ways you can “screw yourself” doing things this way
Cashore had to slow things down in Graceling because her characters were moving too quickly, so she created an impenetrable forest, but in Bitterblue, when her characters had to move fast, there was the forest!
Marchetta had a tricky area to deal with because she had a character who loved musicals in one book, but in the other he flipped out over having to listen to Jesus Christ Superstar during a car trip. She says if anyone asks, she explains the discrepancy by saying the character grew out of liking musicals.
Forman says she wished she’d chosen a different name for Adam’s band.
Speaking of names, Cashore noted that names mean different things in different languages. Po means “butt” in German, and Katsa is Italian for penis.

Negative reactions from readers
Cashore talked about getting some backlash because her book Graceling was seen as anti-marriage and anti-having kids. She notes that the author is not the same as the characters (her phone has a picture of baby as the wallpaper and is “full of babies”), but while she got a lot of positive messages from readers, every so often she got abusive emails. Now she stays off goodreads and no longer accepts comments on her blog posts, and she also doesn’t have a public email address anymore. She decided to do this for peace of mind, but on the other hand, she met Melina Marchetta through an email, so she acknowledges she is missing out on the positive connections from having a public email.
Marchetta’s comment on reviews was that the author is not the audience of the review and that she keeps separate from the negative reviews.
Forman said that she got backlash from the swearing in her books. She says that her family swears at home, even her mother swears, but that doesn’t make them bad people.

Sexual Tension
This is where each of the three authors read a small passage from their books in which the sexual tension between characters was shown. Cashore read a very small scene from Bitterblue in which Bitterblue and Saf have a moment. Forman read a scene from Where She Went where Adam and Mia were wandering around New York together, and Marchetta read letters from The Piper’s Son between Tom and Tara. [note: for video clips of these readings, check out the recap on The Readventurer!]
Marchetta: With sexual tension, it is the insecurities and vulnerabilities that come through. The reader picks up on these and realizes that these characters are broken and are the only two people who can put each other back again.
Cashore: Conflict and the power dynamic are also important. These two people are the only two people who can take each other on. They go back and forth, but they are an even match. Also, what you don’t say is important.
Forman: an adversarial relationships heightens the sexual tension, there is a delicious dynamic.

Switching points of view
Marchetta discussing how Froi arrived, talked about her friends and an long-running joke in which they play “You Raise Me Up” to her. She had just written a scene in Finnikin in which the captain and the guard had put people up on their shoulders, including Froi. Hearing the song soon after that, Marchetta realized that Froi was a player in the story.
Cashore: It was fun to write a book with Bitterblue, who is a character that is more aware of other people’s emotions. Katsa is more of a doer and doesn’t see things in the same way.
Forman: Switching point of view to continue a story is such a good way to do it because you learn things about the characters.
Cashore: didn’t realize how awful Leck was until she wrote his journals and in his point of view. It helped flesh out how horrible he is. Leck is the only character in all three books.
Marchetta says she didn’t understand why she was asked whose POV the book was from, because in Finnikin the book was mostly from his point of view. So she introduced quite early the different point of views in Froi of the Exiles so people wouldn’t be alarmed by the switches to multiple points of view.
Cashore: Switching points of view also helps with boredom. It’s more interesting with a different point of view.

Fantasy Contemporary
During the discussion it was revealed that Kristin Cashore is working on a contemporary story (!), and this led to a discussion on how the transformation happened between Fantasy and Contemporary YA and vice versa.
Marchetta was staying in New York City for two months after writing Jellicoe Road and she was in the subway one day when she saw a poster with a picture of a refugee camp in Africa. Everyone in the car was speaking a different language and she realized that so many people are not in their homeland. By 2007, she had a novel in her head, but she didn’t want it to be too political, so she decided to write it as a Fantasy. Her grandparents were immigrants and had always talked about going back to visit their homeland, so that became part of the spark for Finnikin. But she feels like Finnikin is not so different from her last novel just because it is a Fantasy.
Cashore said that her very first work was realism, and it was the characters that dictated the story and made it a Fantasy.

Q&A: How did you create characters that are abrasive and difficult to like and then make us love them so much it hurts?
Forman: Because you love them.
Cashore said her crankiest character is probably a librarian character in Bitterblue. When you are having fun, readers will pick up on it and like a character.
Marchetta: People start off not liking a particular character of hers, but they see that he uses the name “Anabelle’sbrother” online. This is a clue that he isn’t that bad. Marchetta uses little things like this as a promise that everything will come out right.
Cashore remembers at this point that her cranky librarian has a cat, which underlines what Marchetta just said.

Q&A: Most Helpful Advice from an Editor
Cashore: “Would you consider starting from scratch?” was what her editor said to her after an 800 page draft that took three years. The change of mindset made a difference.
Forman couldn’t come up with a specific piece of advice and says that her editor was key through edits.
Marchetta: “The word ‘said’ is a good word”. So don’t try to use “mocked” and other words like that when “said” will do. Also, “don’t be a thesaurus, use a thesaurus.”
Cashore: “Don’t let fear make your decisions.”

Q&A: Reviews
Forman: You can’t control anything in publishing except the book you are working on in the moment.
Cashore: The reviews that bother her are when the reviewer speculates what the author was trying to do. When people try to guess who the author is, it irks her.
Marchetta advises to stop reading a review when you read “I really wanted to like this book..”

Q&A: Creating Characters
Marchetta: the story begins with the characters. She waits for them to come to her and “observes” them and “listens” to their conversations with who they bring along.
Cashore: has a similar process to Marchetta. She observes. Some characters are easier. They’re talkative. Some aren’t, for example, Saf, who was taciturn. There’s a lot of conversation and dialoging that happens. You’re trying to reveal the characters through words.
Forman: You think you know a character up until you write. The process is endlessly surprising. Characters seem to have a mind of their own.
Marchetta: did not understand Quintana at first. Quintana changed her personality a lot, and Marchetta didn’t understand her for a year, then, during a walk with her dog, it came to her. Too much thought messes up the process — don’t fight them and try to make them into something they’re not.

Q&A: Intent of a book
Forman: It’s what she calls the Perfect Song Conundrum: she listens to an album and asks what the band/artist was thinking. Don’t they know they should do this and this to have the perfect song? there’s a chasm between the book you now it should be, and what it is. The best reading experience for her is cathartic, and leaves her different from how she was when she started.
Cashore: is trying to make a small, simple, emotional point. She tries to write for herself, writing as a writer, and later goes back as a reader. She tries to convey a feeling, and after a bunch of getting it wrong, in the end she gets to the place she wanted to.
Marchetta: Don’t think too much about it. The purpose is to entertain, but make sure you are always in love with the world. She knows it will work out when she’s still in that state when she finishes writing. Also she loves to think that she writes to make a connection.

Q&A: Worldbuilding
Cashore: With Graceling she didn’t build the world first. She did it as she went along, and she thinks this was something of a mistake. Fire is different — she used landscape more carefully in her second book.
Marchetta: Half-planned her world and half-didn’t. Froi hit the ground running because she had set it all up in Finnikin. Her personal travels gets used in her world building.

Q&A: What happened to Jimmy Hailer?
Marchetta: “I don’t know.” Jimmy didn’t come back to her. He was based on a real person, and when she knew him, he was an angry person, but now he is happy. You can’t force a character back to hear his story.

Q&A: Race in Cashore’s series
Cashore: The inhabitants of Dell seem darker skinned in Bitterblue, but not so in Fire. The reason is that in Fire, she made the characters darker-skinned, but she did it so subtly that readers missed it. Now that she has a chance to correct that in Bitterblue. Cashore feels like she failed a little bit in making the race difference too subtle.
Forman: Maybe you need to be less nuanced in Fantasy (about race).

Q&A: Cursing
The authors spent a little bit of time talking about cursing in Fantasy and how fun it was to make up swear words or to use quaint ones. Marchetta’s favorite was “swiving” and Cashore’s was “weaselbugger”.


So that was a really fun event, and I did run into a couple of other bloggers there (Catie from The Readventurer, Heidi from Bunbury in the Stacks, Sasha from Sash & Em, and Grace from Books of Love). I also got a few books signed:

  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman – I hadn’t tried this author before and decided I would give the first book of this series a go. (bought at Books of Wonder)
  • Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore – I was sort of unsure of buying the hardcopy because my other two copies of books in this series are trade paperback, but I couldn’t wait. (bought at Books of Wonder)
  • Saving Francesa by Melina Marchetta – I am ready to try one of Marchetta’s contemporaries and this series appealed to me. Really wanted a copy of The Piper’s Son too, but couldn’t find one. (bought at Books of Wonder)
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – This book has been recommended all over the place and I WILL read it one day! (brought from home)

Other recaps (check these out for more pictures and other details of the event):
Bunbury in the Stacks
The Readventurer

Reading Raves: Author recommendations

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

You know what I love? When an author has a page on their website devoted to recommendations. I’m not saying that this is something all authors should do, but it sure is nice. It caters to my nosiness – what books do you like in the genres you write? Peering at someone’s bookshelves is similar – I want to know what you read, but to have a list of recommendations – I can find out what your favorites are. If I find myself agreeing to an author’s picks I’m inclined to try them out if I’ve never read their books before. I also like how it gives me yet another place to find new-to-me books (as if there aren’t enough places).

The Winter of Enchantment

I have tried out some books based on author’s recommendations on their websites. Sherwood Smith is why I  tried Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Neil Gaiman is why I read The Winter of Enchantment by Victoria  Walker (I read the book before I had a book blog, so the review is only on paperbackswap and goodreads – Goodreads). I  thought The Winter of Enchantment was very lovely imagewise, only OK plotwise, but I’m glad I read it. And  Greensleeves I recommend heartily, but it’s sadly out of print and not cheap to find used online.

Here are some Author Recommendations:

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) Nine Coaches Waiting His Dark Materials Trilogy: "Northern Lights", "Subtle Knife", "Amber Spyglass"

Kristin Cashore recommends Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Cynthia Voigt’s Novels of the Kingdom, Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books, Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, and others.

The Blue Sword The Changeling Sea The Warrior's Apprentice

Rachel Neumeier recommends 14 books including The Changeling Sea, by Patricia McKillip, The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley, Cukoo’s Egg, by CJ Cherryh, The Warrior’s Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold, and A Certain Slant of Light, by Laura Whitcomb

Song of Scarabaeus In the Company of Others Foreigner

In 2009, Linnea Sinclair recommended in her fan forums Sara Creasy’s Song of Scarabaeus, Julie Czernada’s In the Company of Others, and C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series and I’ve put those all on my to-read-one-day list.

Howl's Moving Castle The Dark Is Rising (The Dark Is Rising Sequence) Madeleine's A Wrinkle (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Paperback - May 1, 2007))

Holly Black‘s Suggested Reading List has Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’ Engle, Mary Stewart, Peter Beagle, Tanith Lee, Susan Cooper, Diana Wynne Jones,and Michael Moorcock on it, to name a few (she’s also yet another one who recommends Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books)

Riddle-Master The Westing Game [WESTING GAME] Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer

Shannon Hale has a lovely long list of recommendations on her website. So many. I love it. She recommends gems like Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy, by Patricia McKillip, and Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, by Tanith Lee. (I must say I like her husband’s recs at the bottom of her list too).

Bitter Night: A Horngate Witches Book Nine Layers of Sky Mr. Impossible

Ann Aguirre sometimes posts about books she loved on her blog, and I pay attention. She’s recommended Diana Pharaoh Francis’ Bitter Night, and Liz William’s Nine Layers of Sky, both on my TBR, as well as Jeri Smith-Ready and intriguing romances with idiot heroes.

The Once and Future King Devil's Cub Moominsummer Madness   [MOOMINSUMMER MADNESS] [Paperback]

Garth Nix also wrote a long list of recommendations (ah, quite delightful), called “Books Remembered: An Alphabetical Remembrance“.  He also has The Winter of Enchantment listed, along with Georgette Heyer, Tove Jansson, Ursula Le Guin and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King (which really should be required reading).

Dull Boy Make Me Yours (Harlequin Blaze) Beastly

Diana Peterfreund is really an author I should be reading since Angie keeps recommending her books and Angie tends to be right (How annoying. Gives my TBR pile grief). This thought is backed up with recommendations that look good, like in her post “Why isn’t Everyone reading…?” where she recommends Sarah Cross’ Dull Boy, Betina Krahn, and oh there it is (again!), the Attolia books. I think she also shares my opinion on retellings (basically I ♥ them mucho).

I know I’ve seen more lists on author’s websites, but let’s stop there. Are there lists that you recommend I look at? Do tell!

Best of 2009 and New Year’s Resolution for 2010

I liked looking back last year at 2008 so this year I’m also looking back at 2009. I didn’t make my goal of reading 100 books, but at 79 books I was above last year’s number (77). Anyway, here’s my Best of 2009 list, broken down in the same way I broke down books last year:

The Books that Blew Me Away – This is a very small list, just three books, like last year.  I only put books on the list when a book consumes me.

  • Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliosotti https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (this is technically a 2010 book. Review to come) –https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gif https://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Books that Came Close to Blowing Me Away This list is of books which I’d recommend without reservation and I loved them while reading them. There are more of these this year than last year (5 versus 4!)
  • Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Salt and Silver by Anna Katherine https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Endless Blue by Wen Spencer https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg

Books I Really Liked/ Keepersthese are also recommended and all have several moments that I loved in them and I think many people will like these books:

  • Soulless by Gail Carriger https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Way of the Shadows by Brent Weeks https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • On the Edge by Ilona Andrews https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Must Love Hellhounds (anthology) Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook, and Charlaine Harris — I liked 2 of the 4 stories a lot https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Heroes at Risk by Moira J. Moore https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Sins & Shadows (Shadows Inquiries) by Lyn Benedict https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percey Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • What Happens in London by Julia Quinn https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Hope’s Folly by Linnea Sinclair https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Blue Diablo (Corine Solomon, Bk 1) by Ann Aguirre https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, Bk 6) by Carrie Vaughn https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Kitty and the Silver Bullet (Kitty Norville, Bk 4) by Carrie Vaughn https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville, Bk 3) by Carrie Vaughn https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg

And for my New Year’s Resolution – First I have the usual one which is to read 100 books.

  • 2006 – 103 books
  • 2007 – 99 books
  • 2008 – 77 books
  • 2009 – 79 books

The second resolution is to make the TBR go down. I was really bad over my Christmas vacation and the TBR is over 190 right now. The plan is that I can’t buy a book unless I read two or more. Let’s hope I have the willpower.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling
Kristin Cashore

This is the copy of Graceling I bought on my trip to Boston and finished on the plane ride to AZ this week. My review of Fire, Cashore’s other book in this world, is here: livejournal | wordpress

The Premise: Graceling is the story of Katsa, who is a graceling — someone who has two different colored eyes and preternatural ability in a certain skill. Katsa’s grace is that of killing, and since this was discovered, she’s been nothing but her uncle the king’s enforcer; threatening and killing as he sees fit.  As Katsa grows up she dislikes herself and her role in the kingdom more and more. Things begin to come to a head when Katsa meets Po, a prince from another kingdom who is a Graceling too.

My Thoughts: I read Fire before Graceling. Graceling was published before Fire, but chronologically Fire happens before Graceling. I think you can read these books in either order, but I felt that I was a little more spoiled from reading Fire first than I may have been the other way around. I was less surprised about the villain of Graceling than I think I would have been if I’d read them in the other order.

I really LOVED Fire, I found myself just contentedly reading it and not wanting to move or do anything else, but I had a different reaction to Graceling. Graceling was an excellent fantasy with a sweet romance, but it didn’t enthrall me in the same way that Fire did. I found Graceling a slower read and I put it down more, especially in the first third of the book.  I think I connected to Katsa a little less than I did Fire.  She grew as the book progressed, and she learned to accept her Grace and believe that she wasn’t really a monster, but she was less emotionally available and had problems with opening herself up to people, and maybe that was why I couldn’t connect as well.  Or maybe the reason is that I read Fire first so I love that most? It’s hard to tell what makes me love one book more than another sometimes..

I think a few people have already commented on Katsa’s unwillingness to get married. I could understand the idea in general, but when Katsa kept trying to explain it she alienated me more. I don’t think I really needed to read that she felt that getting married was too similar to being owned by someone, the way she was with King Randa. After a while, her constant fearful explanations about it made me think she was just a chicken rather than someone who had a life philosophy and just didn’t want to get married. Why was it brought up so much?! Ug, it started to irk me.

On the other hand, I really liked Po, Katsa’s love interest. He was a lovely secondary character, especially in the way he responded to Katsa and her moods. Cashore really writes some great guys in her stories! Po has a way of accepting Katsa for exactly who she was that was refreshing. I also loved Bitterblue, who is one of the most levelheaded young ladies I’ve read of in a while. I’m glad to know she has her own book which is coming out sometime next year (word is we also can catch up with Po and Katsa in it too).

Final note: There are sexual situations in this book, but it was written in a very vague way;  nothing explicit.

Overall: I liked Fire better, but it’s another good young adult fantasy by this author. Brave heroines, understanding heroes and deep friendships make this series a recommended read. Cashore goes onto my autobuy author list.

Buy: Amazon | Powells

Other Reviews:
Book girl of Mur-y-Castell – “it was ok”
Book Love Affair – 9 out of 10
Lurv a la Mode – 4 scoops (out of 5)
Jawas Read , Too – Positive with some quibbles. I agreed with this review
Calico reaction – Worth the Cash

Road trip to Boston: Harvard Bookstore

Ok, yes it’s true, whenever I travel and happen to see a bookstore, I KINDA go in. The Husband and I went on a roadtrip to Boston last weekend to go visit a couple of our friends who live up there (they just bought a place! I’m jealous of their attic which I can see being remodeled into a cool library). We also eat a lot on these trips, but since this is a *book* blog..I give you Harvard Bookstore:

This bookstore was pretty nice.. small compared to The Strand and Powells, but I liked the selection. It has a used and remainder book section in the basement (scifi/fantasy was only 2 shelves, no dedicated romance section, but the used copies seemed to be good condition copies and there was a good used YA section), and the new books upstairs.

The staff was also pretty friendly. I was looking for Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and I couldn’t find it. I ended up just buying a couple of bookmarks, but when I left the store, what do I see? Graceling on display in their window, with a sticker that says signed by the author! I popped back inside where the girl at the desk found me a autographed copy of my own AND said Kristin Cashore was doing an author event there November 24th at 7pm. Anyone in the Boston area who wants to see Kristin Cashore read from Fire should go. I have a volunteer who promises to go to Harvard Bookstore and get a book signed for me. Since I already have Fire signed (from BEA), I’m going to make him get Bitterblue when it comes out, heheh. Here’s the haul from the trip (I was good):

The bookmarks I bought are made out of stamps laminated together. I liked the fish ones from Manama, Dependency of Ajman, and the other ones are Boris Vallejo(!!) stamps from “Batum”. The Boris Vallejo ones tickled my fantasy reading sensibilities. If you’re interested in the sheet set it came from, click here.

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire
Kristin Cashore

I was pretty sure I would like this book when Graceling got glowing reviews from the usual suspects (people who have tastes that tend to mesh with mine), which is why I got an ARC copy of Fire at BEA. The next day, when I saw that the author was signing the book, I got another copy. The first copy was contested off earlier this summer, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading Fire until now (what can I do, so many good books in my TBR, so little time).

The Premise: Fire is a 17 year old girl who lives in the kingdom of the Dells. This is a land where monsters live. Monsters are just like their normal counterparts, except they are gorgeous, with amazing colored skin and hair and fur, and they use their beauty to compel their victims to do what they want. Fire is the only human monster alive. The strong minded want to kill her, the weak throw themselves at her feet, and other monsters just want to eat her. This is the least of Fire’s problems because the country is gearing for war. The young King Nash’s position is threatened by a couple of power-hungry lords and although his brother and war commander, Brigan, doesn’t trust Fire, she soon becomes embroiled in their fight to keep the kingdom together.

Read a 40 page excerpt of Fire

My Thoughts: I haven’t read Graceling, and I had no problems because of this, so I will happily say that there is no need to read Graceling first. This is supposed to be an earlier companion novel set in the same world but a different geographical location, with ONE (I think) common character, and the rest are new characters. I didn’t even know who this common character was until I saw reviews by people who had read Graceling before reading Fire.

This book started off with a prologue which doesn’t come into play until much later on in the book. I spent some time wondering what the prologue was about because it didn’t seem to affect the story for a long time. But it does finally come into play, so you do have to read it. When the book really starts, we’re introduced to Fire who has just been shot by an arrow, but accidentally, which is a surprise to Fire. Fire believes at any time she could die, either from a monster attacking her and her not being fast enough to avoid it, or from someone going insane in her presence, killing her.  At first I didn’t really grasp the monster concept and what it really meant for Fire to be one, but over and over again, everyone’s reactions to Fire, and I do mean everyone’s, is to first see her as that beautiful monster. By the time I was done, I was right there with Fire in being completely sick of people who couldn’t control themselves absolutely hating her or throwing themselves at her on sight, but it was realistic and a huge part of what she is. It was really a burden, especially because she was a woman.

I loved Cashore”s writing style. Fire is written in the third person, but the focus is mostly on Fire, and I think the author makes a deliberate choice to have the reader experience what Fire experiences. So there’s a lot of showing, not telling, especially when it comes to emotions that belong to people other than Fire. We can see their faces, but we’re left to interpret what emotions propel their facial expressions and body language. I love that I don’t always know whether my guess is correct, and the author doesn’t lay it all out there clearly. It also makes Fire the focus of all my emotional empathy, and boy, does this girl go through things. Because of Fire’s father, another human monster, a selfish man who was adviser to the previous king, Fire is the target of hatred because of his sins. There’s only her neighbors, Lord Brocker and his son Archer who seem to care for her, but as the book continues, Fire’s strength earns her more friends. It’s not easy. There are some scenes of very realistic grief, the kind where you are so sad and depressed, all you know is feeling, not logic. I wanted to cry with her. Don’t worry though, this is not, for the most part, a sad book because Cashore writes things in a way where I could accept the sad parts and move on. There is more hope and happiness, and a big part of that is the romance.

The relationships between characters in this book were just amazing. Even the minor characters had individual personalities and impacted the major characters, but my favorite relationship was of course the romantic one! I think it was quite obvious from quite early on who Fire was going to end up with, but the journey to get there was gradual and lovely. It was a mental process, although Fire and other characters are not shy about sex. Actually, despite their young age, and although Fire is categorized as young adult, most characters had adult responsibilities and were mature people. The writing has a simple, no frills feel of a young adult book, but there are a lot of themes which makes this book have an adult appeal.

Overall: I thought I would like it, but Fire really bowled me over: I loved it! Superb writing, fantasy with a really sweet romance, and amazing character development. It’s a young adult book that has adult appeal. I highly recommend it, especially if you are a fan of Robin McKinley or Sharon Shinn or Maria Snyder. I closed the book with a sigh, and then I hugged it.

Other reviews:
Angieville – she loved it
The Book Smugglers gave it a 9, Damn near perfection
Steph Su Reads – 5 out of 5

Other links:
Kristin Cashore’s blog
Fire Blog Tour

Giveaway: ARC of Kristin Cashore’s Fire

Fire
Fire
Kristin Cashore
This contest is now closed.
This is supposed to be the prequel companion to Graceling, which I haven’t read yet.

Here’s the blurb:

“It is not a peaceful time in the Dells.

Young King Nash clings to the throne, while rebel lords, in the north and south, build armies to unseat him. War is coming. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves.

This is where Fire lives, a girl whose startling appearance is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Everyone…except Prince Brigan”

It looks good!

This book comes out in October in hardcover, but of course I’m giving an ARC away so you can get your hands on it early! The ARC is a trade paperback.

All you have to do to win it is send an email to janicu[AT]gmail[DOT]com with the title “Fire Giveaway”. I will send the book outside the US, so anyone can enter. Not going to wait a week to draw the winner this time! You have till midnight Tuesday EST to enter.