Tag Archive | authors I enjoy

All. The. Feels. — IF I STAY on Movie Monday

IF I STAY has been on my list to watch ever since it came out on video (it’s on Netflix right now) but I knew that was going to need the right mood and moment. Though I have not (to my shame) read the extremely well reviewed book by Gayle Foreman, I knew what I was getting into. (This is not a spoiler—Mia’s family was in a car crash, and she is in a coma deciding whether to stay or go. She relives the past that got her where she is, and watches the present as those she love gather around her.)


“Heartstrings” courtesy of Sean Molin on Flickr under Creative Commons license (source)

I knew I couldn’t watch this in a movie theater. I knew I couldn’t watch it when my Mom was around, or right before bed, or in the middle of the day when I’d have to go be productive after. But last night, I had the house to myself, the evening off, and a blog I needed to revive.

I expected to need Kleenex (see description above). I did not expect to completely lose my shit. I’m not just talking sobbing. I’m talking gasping, shaking, and the occasional un-stifle-able keening cry. If I hadn’t been alone, it would have been mortifying.

Before you say, “God, that sounds awful,” I should explain that it was emotional, and beautiful, and ultimately hopeful and up-lifting. But for me, it cracked open that shell I keep around the loss of my brother and father, and that that grief, love, and loss came pouring out as if I were there again in the hospital. It’s not just the loss, it was everything–the vigil at the hospital, the disbelief, the anger, and finally that moment when you have to say to the person you love, “It’s okay to go.”

Which is what this story is really about–staying or going. Keeping to the course you’re on, or taking a new direction. It’s a theme that happens over and over, by characters in the past and the present, in little decisions and big ones. It’s beautiful, and it’s elementally Young Adult in nature. It’s about change.

The thing I loved most (and what spoke to me most, as someone who has so much anxiety about change) was the idea that there are no right or wrong choices. There’s only option A or option B; both can be happy, and both will have a measure of pain.  I read and write mostly genre fiction, where there’s a strong element of fate, and destiny, and pulling the sword from the stone, and what not. So this idea that both options can be satisfying in a different way is what made this such a realistic story.

I like moves that give me lots of thinky thoughts, and IF I STAY. I really do recommend it. Not everyone will find it so painful, I just have certain triggers.  I thought several times about stopping the movie, but I had to watch to the end. My objective brain wanted to see how the creators ended the story. My subjective brain knew that Mia’s decision didn’t matter–she wins either way, and she loses something either way.

Stuff I’ve Been Reading

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably man's best friend, and inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -- Groucho Marx

“Outside of a dog, a book is probably man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx

So, I hurt my finger. Not badly, just badly enough that typing became difficult for maybe a week, which meant I had an excuse to sit around and read all the things. Now I’m finally getting around to writing my book report(s). Have you read any of these? Tell me what you think about them in the comments.

Stuff I read:

Carrie, by Stephen King. I had never read this book because I knew the basic story and it sounded unpleasant. When I read King as a kid, it was strictly “horror” to me–slightly forbidden, definitely scary, but mentally in the realm of “popular novel.” Reading as an adult (and an author) I’m fascinated by how twisted and textured the novels are as well. If this were a different post, I could point out the elements of classic Tragedy (with a capital T) in Carrie, and a lot of King’s books. There’s a kind of Greek Chorus of observers, and Carrie is, like Lear and Hamlet and Antigone even, someone who evokes more pathos than empathy. (I’m trying to think what her fatal flaw would be. Tell me in the comments if you have an idea.)

I love when a book tells a great story AND I think about it months later and go “Ah ha. I see what you did there.” Which is not to say I don’t love a Dan Brown novel on an airplane, but that’s sort of like Fruit Loops. It tastes good as you gobble it up, but it’s not something you chew on and savor.

The Day She Died, by Catroina McPherson. This is an English author, and a random pick from the library’s new books shelf. A lucky pick, as it turns out. I was expecting more of a mystery triller, and it works on that level. But it’s also a sort of psychological piece as well. I’m continually on the lookout for mystery/thrillers like Gillian Flynn’s books, and this is kind of along those lines, though not as hard-edged. For me there was the mystery and suspense (Who should she trust? Who is lying? Is she even reliable as a narrator?) but it was also interesting how step with good intent can lead to another, and another, until you’re totally embroiled. I think I read this in one sitting.

I Want it That Way, by Ann Aguirre. This is the kick off title in Harlequin’s New Adult line, and here’s what’s cool about it. I have ambivalent feelings about the whole “New Adult” genre, because I loved books about college aged protagonists when I was in high school. But they used to simply be shelved on the fantasy/mystery/romance shelves. So what makes book “New Adult,” age or content? I don’t know.

However, I know a good book when I read it.  And I Want it that Way is a good read. You should know the characters have lots of sex without guilt or moralizing. The heroine is 20; she and the hero develop a good rapport/friendship before doing the deed. Nadia is in college and sees her hot neighbor and is all “What’s up with the brooding hot guy?” Turns out that what’s up is brooding hot guy is not a secret BDSM master, or a vampire CEO. He’s a single father at an age when he should be in college going to keg parties. But Nadia really really likes him. And he’s totally charmed by her, though he has to think about the effect a relationship would have on his son. So this is primarily a romance (I mentioned lots of sex, right?) but it also is about taking on adult responsibilities and knowing when you’re ready for that.

This is what I imagined when I hear the term “New Adult.” It’s basically a book for people who love YA, but also love racy romance. Which is a lot of people, because that’s how 50 shades happened. If New Adult is going to be a thing, then I hope there’s more of it that’s like this.

Have you read any of these? Share your opinion in the comments. And I would love a recommendation for what to read next. (Or add to my TBR shelf. Whichever.)

(Picture credit: jamelah e. on Flickr. CC License)

A post about women science fiction writers… eventually.

Mary Shelley, arguably the first Science Fiction Writer. (This is relevant to this post.)

Mary Shelley, arguably the first Science Fiction Writer. (This is relevant to this post.)

I love when the premium channels like HBO and Showtime run free preview weekends, because it reassures me that I’m not missing much not subscribing to them. Even if it does mean I have to wait until the DVDs come out to catch up on Game of Thrones. Or read the series of books full of spoilers that bearded guy is writing. Whatever—

Cue record scratch thought derailment sound effect. That (above) was the start of  a Movie Monday post, because my mother has started reading blogs, which is a blog post in itself, and she has been nagging encouraging me to blog more often. It goes like this: “That other blog has a theme for every day of the week. Why don’t you do that? You’re so smart and funny, you should write that in your blog. You would have a lot more followers if you posted more often. This guy has way more followers than you, and he’s a monk.” (I am not even making that up.)

So I sit down to write a Movie Monday post. I’ll write about Ender’s Game, which I watched during the HBO free preview this weekend. Only I went looking for that faux article about George RR Martin writing spoilers for the GOT TV show, and then I found the picture below.


Photo taken (and tweeted) by the amazing artist/photographer Sarah Allegra (@sallegra). It is only tangentially related to this post.

Here follows my exact thought process from that moment until this:

1. Aw, that’s cute! GRRM has a little stuffed dire wolf.  Oh hey, that other guy has a little stuffed unicorn. Oh HEY, that’s Peter S. Beagle author of The Last Unicorn which is an amazing book (and an animated movie, so I guess this is still Movie Monday.) OMG The animals from their books are totally kissing noses! That’s so adorable!

2. Why is that funny? Two venerable old guys being dorks with toys from their books. That sort of makes them cooler. Authors! They’re just like us! Then I’m like, oh yeah, Ender’s Game.

3. Ender’s Game is kind of a venerable book itself, a military science fiction novel that explores the psychology of war and society, pretty much just like Starship Troopers (the novel) did, which also had giant bug-like aliens. I wonder why that is? Is it because the insectoid shape makes them seem true alien and icky, where a more mammalian thing might look like you could have it for a pet?

4. But Starship Troopers (the movie) was more action-y. It also had a lot more decapitations and impalements and also some brain sucking, if you like that sort of thing. Much more than the book.

5. This whole blog has become about venerable white guys who write science fiction and fantasy.  That’s just not right. I need to talk about some women science fiction writers.

6. Which women science fiction writers should I recommend? There’s Anne McCaffrey and Madeline L’Engle of course. Ursula L’Guin and Connie Willis. Would my blog readers be interested in them? I should go look up who are recent women science fiction writers (other than Suzanne Collins).

Literally the first line of A Wrinkle in Time. (This is the book that made me want to write books.)

Literally the first line of A Wrinkle in Time. (This is the book that made me want to write books.)

7. This first Google hit is a list of science fiction FOR girls, which is not the same thing, especially since half these books are by men.

8. THIS list starts with The Handmaiden’s Tale?  Ugh.  Well, there’s Willis and L’Guin. Oh yeah! Octavia Butler. A woman AND an African American. Yes, there’s Andre Norton, C.J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold. Also Elizabeth Moon. Well, there’s Kristine Kathryn Rusch, those are a little less dusty, more space opera-y. Tanya Huff!  I love her books.

9. These are great books, but kind of… old fashioned. Well, not all of them. I should still recommend them. They’re awesome, and my readers aren’t intimidated by big books.

10. But, still, I should look at YA science fiction and find some contemporary things to talk about, too. Oh, here’s Kirkus’s list of the Best Teen SFF books of 2013. Excellent!

11. Wow, these sound really good. I should put this on my Goodreads list so I remember them.

12. And maybe read a sample chapter…

13: Or two.

14. THREE HOURS LATER, I still haven’t written anything about Ender’s Game.

15. And it’s not even Monday any more.

Friday Faves – The Twisted, The Pretty, and the Yummy

Here’s what’s floating my boat this week. Why? Because “Friday Faves” sounds cool.

1. Gillian Flynn. This is not a YA author. (Not by any stretch of the imagination.) Banner for Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnShe writes books about grisly murders and really twisted up characters. Her book Gone Girl is a best seller, and deservedly so. Her books keep me riveted, not just with the plot twist, but because she’s got this astounding facility with voice.

Also, it is really hard to knock me to a place where I’m staring at the book going “Holy $%^&! I did NOT see that coming.”

[YA disclaimer: I’d rate her books almost an R, not for any graphic sex but for disturbing psychology… in both the killers and the protagonists.]

2. The Immaculate Baking Company.  Oh my GAWD these chocolate rolls are so good.  I literally reward myself for getting up early and going to mass by baking them when I get home. (Appropriate, given the name, I guess.)  Only today is Friday and I’m eating one just because. (They also promote Folk Artists and they have a blog with delicious start-with-our-products-and-make-them-even-more-awesome recipes.)



3. The cheerfulness of Vera Bradley’s Ribbons pattern… and their Pinterest board full of inspiration.


4. These floats, covered entirely in flowers (like the Tournament of Roses parade), from Holland’s Bloemencorso.

Look at that little guy on the bottom, helping out with the grooming. So. Cute.

Look at that little guy on the bottom, helping out with the grooming. So. Cute.

What a cutie.

Speaking of cute. This is. 


5. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. First off, I LOVED that movie. JGL did an incredible job playing young Bruce Willis. His mannerisms and line delivery were dead on.  But I feel like I just discovered this guy. I know he was in Inception (and really great in that, too). But when did he go from being “Wow, that kid from Third Rock From The Sun can really act!” to “Wow, he’s kinda hot as well. A little skinny, but… day-um.”


That’s it for this Friday. I guess I’ll have to pull my head out of my book long enough to find new things to be obsessed with next week. Please make suggestions in the comments. Seriously.

Bookanistas: Jinx by Meg Cabot

Want to talk books in real time? I’m doing a live chat tonight (Thursday, June 23) at 9 pm ET/ 8 pm CT at The Knight Agency website. Click here to go directly to the chat room. Enter any combo of user name and password. 

Now, on to Jinx by Meg Cabot!

What the back cover says: 

Jean Honeychurch hates her boring name (not Jean Marie, or Jeanette, just . . . Jean). What’s worse? Her all-too-appropriate nickname, Jinx. Misfortune seems to follow her everywhere she goes even to New York City, where Jinx has moved to get away from the huge mess she caused in her small hometown. Her aunt and uncle welcome her to their Manhattan town house, but her beautiful cousin Tory isn’t so thrilled. . . .

In fact, Tory is hiding a dangerous secret one that could put them all in danger. Soon Jinx realizes it isn’t just bad luck she’s been running from . . . and that the curse she has lived under since the day she was born may be the only thing that can save her life.
What I say: 
This is a delightful book that has been on my shelf for a long time. Maybe not since it came out but… well, a while. I grabbed it to have something to read while my car was being inspected, and as often happens when I pick up a Cabot book, I spent the afternoon reading “one more page.” (I did come home from the garage first, though.) 
Cabot’s narrative voice sparkles, and her characters are effortlessly realized. Her dialog is always right on the mark. I love how the story and characters evolve through dialog, without sacrificing the zippiness.  I love The Guy in particular. He was just the right contrast to Jean, the narrator and heroine, who’s nickname is Jinx for reasons that are pretty obvious from the jump. Or are they?
Jean, of course, discovers there’s more to the story, and she has to make peace with herself and her specialness (it is, after all paranormal book) as well as solve the problem of her cousin, who has embraced her specialness a little too fervently. 
Unlike Cabot’s more recent books, like Abandon, which I talked about not long ago, this one is considerably lighter in tone and the plot is simpler as well. It suits a standalone book, and didn’t diminish my enjoyment of it. 
It’s a lighter read, like a tasty sorbet, and perfect for a lazy summer afternoon. 

What else are the Bookanista’s reading this week?  Click below to find out!

Elana Johnson adores Hourglass
Beth Revis has cover love for Incarnate
Shana Silver swoons over Supernaturally
Rosemary Clement-Moore jumps for Jinx
Stasia Ward Kehoe praises Possession
Gretchen McNeil is giddy about Moonglass
Sarah Frances Hardy brags about The Grandma Book

Bookanistas: Abandon by Meg Cabot

One of my favorite YA authors plus one of my favorite myths? Yes please!

What the back cover says: 

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can’t help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she’s never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.
She knows he’s no guardian angel, and his dark world isn’t exactly heaven, yet she can’t stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.
But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.
What I say: 

Abandon is the first in a trilogy. I don’t know why I didn’t realize this right away, but I just went, Oooo, I love it when Meg Cabot gets spooky! and dived right in. I was even more excited when I quickly realized it was a modern twist on the Persephone myth.  (I don’t know why I love it, I just do; I know this seems counter to my feminist principles, but don’t judge me, okay!)
Anyway, Cabot confronts the passiveness of Persephone in her own story right away, and dispenses with it. Pierce, the Persephone in Abandon, dies in an accident, and because of hypothermia, is revived after an unusually long time, with no physical damage. But while she was dead, she traveled to the underworld and met John, who falls in love with her (of course) with that sort of epic instant destiny thing that is so popular nowadays. 

But it works here because (a) it’s based on myth, and (b) you can see why Pierce is just the sort of girl to get right to the heart of the sort of guy that John is. 
It helps that Cabot makes them so likable through her wonderful dialogue. In fact, John’s obvious vulnerability under his brooding exterior, and his temper and strength, were very appealing to me. (Translation: John is hot, and there’s a Beauty and the Beast vibe that I find irre-freaking-sistable. I do love a grumpy love interest.)
The book opens after the dying and coming back; this is told retrospectively as Pierce is trying to restart her life in a new place. While these flashback scenes were well done (especially the part in the Underworld), it’s really in the second half that the story started moving forward with the kind of drive I expect in a Cabot book. (I’m saying… stick with it.) 
This book is basically Act One of this story. An entertaining Act One, but you need to know it ends with story problems that won’t be answered until book two. 
So, a definite recommend, especially if you like Cabot’s Mediator series, or my personal favorite of hers: Avalon High. It was a refreshing read after all the dark dystopians. It was nice to see a heroine faced with saving a world that doesn’t suck, and falling in love with a young man that I found really appealing… in a brooding and slightly stalkery way. (I’m not sure how she pulled that off, but… yeah. That’s my favorite part.) 

Here’s what the other Bookanistas are talking about today: 

Elana Johnson visits Dark and Hollow Places
LiLa Roecker gets silly over Spoiled
Christine Fonseca has a passion for Possession – with giveaway
Shannon Messenger marvels at Moonglass – with giveaway
Jamie Harrington adores Invincible Summer
Shelli Johannes-Wells is in the grip of Possession
Scott Tracey bathes in Blood Magic
Carolina Valdez Miller interviews Invincible Summer author Hannah Moskowitz
Jessi Kirby praises Playing Hurt
Bethany Wiggins delves into Divergent
Shana Silver presents a Guestanista gushing over Between Here and Forever
Carrie Harris sings out about Shift
Rosemary Clement-Moore applauds Abandon
Sarah Frances Hardy enjoys Me Jane
Matt Blackstone loves Like Mandarin
Corrine Jackson delights in The Duff

Bookanistas Book Review: Falling Under

I was lucky enough to get to read Gwen Hayes’s marvelous YA Paranormal Romance Falling Under last year, and I loved it so much that I bought so I could read all over again now that it’s out.

Here’s what the back of the book says:


Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life, but when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in her small California town of Serendipity Falls, she feels every urge she’s ever denied burning through her at the slightest glance from Haden Black. Theia knows she’s seen Haden before—not around town, but in her dreams.

Theia doesn’t understand how, but every night has them joined in a haunting world of eerie fantasy. The only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards Hayden is stronger than her fear. And as she slowly discovers what Haden truly is, Theia’s not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul. 

Here’s what I said:

“FALLING UNDER is absolutely irresistible. A lush, dark fairy tale full of magic, intrigue, and love. Genuinely scary and swooningly romantic in all the best ways, once I fell into this book, I couldn’t stop reading. Theia and Haden’s story utterly enthralled me, and I can’t wait to read more about Serendipity Falls.” –Rosemary Clement-Moore, author of THE SPLENDOR FALLS

Said it and meant it. I read this on the treadmill, and if you knew how much I hate to exercise, you would know what a big deal it is that I actually looked forward to going to the gym so I could get back to the story.

Falling Under is unapologetically romantic and surprisingly sensual. The fantasy elements are well developed and unique. There’s a definite macabre aesthetic to “Under”–that’s the ‘otherworld’ in this otherworldly fantasy–and when Gwen said that Tim Burton was one of her influences, I can definitely see that.

The writing is so very very good, and the characterization is fantastic. Theia is a strong heroine with a strong voice. I love that she has friends–good friends, and a real, complicated relationship with her father. Haden is a brooding sort, who will draw inevitable comparisons to a certain sparkly vampire. But I think he goes back to the source–there’s a lot of Heathcliff, with a healthy does of Lord Byron to give him enough dash and wit to keep him from getting oppressive.

Gosh, this was a really good read. It takes the “girl meets otherworldly boy” story and tells it really, exceptionally well, taking it in surprising directions. There’s nothing cookie cutter about this, and I am very much looking forward to the sequel.

What else are the Bookanistas reading this week? Check it out:

Elana Johnson shines a light on Clarity
LiLa Roecker raves over The Rendering
Shannon Messenger loves 13 Reasons Why – with a signed book giveaway!
Shelli Johannes Wells joins The Liar Society
Scott Tracey is amazed by The Iron Thorn
Kirsten Hubbard raves over these March releases
Michelle Hodkin introduces some marvelous March books
Myra McEntire invites The Liar Society authors Lisa & Laura Roecker into the fort
Beth Revis is mad for Matched
Carolina Valdez Miller delights in Delirium
Jessica Kirby adores Across the Universe
Megan Miranda peers into Sean Griswold’s Head
Bethany Wiggins marvels at Matched
Shana Silver is a super stop on The Liar Society blog tour
Gretchen McNeil celebrates The Liar Society
Carrie Harris buzzes about Blessed
Katie Anderson shows cover love for Possess       
Matt Blackstone is ecstatic over Edges
Stasia Ward Kehoe is wild for What Happened to Goodbye