Tuesday, May 28, 2013

INK -- Fascinating Setting

What am I reading now?  INK (Amanda Sun)
*I like the UK cover better than the US one, so I used it here

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  This might be one of the most original stories I've read this year. And the setting, Japan, described in rich detail, captures the imagination. It's still a paranormal romance and fulfills the expectation of the genre, but the twists are so refreshing.

The little details call to the reader to join the story without interrupting the flow; bento boxes, cherry blossoms, cram-school, kendo, manju, calligraphy--oh, I need a vacation to Japan!

The story is Katie's, an American girl, sent to Japan to live with her aunt (who is teaching English) after her mother's death, but it's also Tomo's, who is tortured, believing he's a monster endowed with an ancient super-power. No, I'm not telling what it is--you could find it by reading about the book--but I loved reading the story as the revelation unfolded in the pages. It's part of the fascination.

This book gets 5 stars from me on Goodreads. You should know that if I read a book that I feel doesn't earn at least 3 stars, I won't rate it or review it on Goodreads, but I also don't throw 5s around. (It only looks like it because I've posted about two 5's in a row!) They are saved for stories or characters that stick with me for a while. This one qualifies, with much of the extra appeal attributed to the unusual paranormal element introduced and the unfamiliar setting, and I'll be waiting for the next in the Paper Gods series.

Something that I would have loved in this book would have been having two 1st-person POV characters. Tomo has so much going on in his life that it would have made the book amazing to have the conflict he experienced introduced into the plot, especially in the first hundred pages. But it wasn't, so I'd by the book from Tomo's point of view, if Ms. Sun would like to get right on that.    ;)

Just a thought:


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coverflips

What am I RE-reading now?  Mystic and Rider (Sharron Shinn Twelve Houses #1)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? Yes, I'm re-reading this series, not only because I really, really love these books, but also because I want to learn how the author makes the characters so memorable. The series has magic, civil unrest, war, political intrigue, love, overwhelming odds, fights to the death...ahhhh a great book for relaxing. Oh, yes, I would highly recommend this series (and this author, who has many more books) to anyone who loves high fantasy and/or romance, but you have to overlook the Fabio-like cover on one book.

Here's the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th in the series. Can you guess which one I'm teasing as Fabio-esque?

The first four books follow six friends, each taking the spotlight in a book (I know--6 friends, 4 books not adding up! But trust me this is literature not math--and it works.) The fifth book follows a minor character and while a good story with excellent writing, it just seemed like a very long epilogue to the series and ties up some loose ends.

So, you've had a minute to think it over--if you guessed Book 3, Dark Moon Defender, you're right. I think the romantisized pose is kinda (read: extremely) out there for the series and nothing at all like the character! And that brings me to my post:

COVERFLIPS
Maureen Johnson (Author of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, a great YA book) has a fun idea--COVERFLIPS. Sometimes books get saddled with covers that don't really belong with the story. They aren't always distractors but they misrepresent the content. For example: once I read a book with a ornate antique necklace on the cover--but no necklace in the whole book! I kept waiting, thinking it would be important. Nope. Nada. The "contract" the book cover set up with me when I chose the book was unfulfilled, and I kind of felt jilted.

COVERFLIPS grew from the idea that books should have gender neutral covers so anyone would feel comfortable buying and reading the book. This is a big concept in schools. Kids stand at the library shelves and look at covers without even reading cover copy to decide if they'll give it a chance.

Recently a book I love (and kids like to read) was given a cover make-over for the release of the paperback version. The hard back cover suggested a classroom scene while the paperback cover was definitely a romantic moment. And the thing is--the romantic moment doesn't capture the theme, problem or main character arc--that book was not about romance. But it did stop boys from picking it up.

Maybe a book is about the romance and it would be appropriate for the cover, but if it's not then readers can feel manipulated and disrespected by such prominent placement. I think there is a lot of public comment on it right now because covers are veering off what consumers want and expect, and in some cases being viewed as gimmicky. Trust matters. Even on book covers.

Maybe this would be a fun activity with students next year (as part of book reports), ask them to design a cover that matches the story. I think I'd be able to see what the students understood as the main ideas in the books, the character traits or arc or the metaphors and the themes presented in the book, as well as have an outlet for their own creative expression.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Goodreads Rants

What am I reading now?   The Elite (Kiera Cass, The Selection)
Annd . . . what do I think so far?  Yes, I love this series!
This is the second book in The Selection series with the next book out in 2014; that is a year from now.
A whole year--12 months--365 days!
AHHHHHHH!

I can't say much about this book without spoiling the first book so I'll just say: The king has to die.
Those of you who have read this book agree, right?
My rating on this book?
Goodreads Rants
In the spirit of science, I like getting my own facts about books, so I try to avoid reading the comments people make about books before I read them. Oh, don't get me wrong--I stalk Goodreads a lot, but I only look at the number of stars the books I'm interested in are getting. And even then, I'll look at a few of my friends that have similar reading tastes and weight their stars more heavily than even the average listed for a book. After I read and rate the book, I might scroll through and read some of the comments.

Something I noticed--the longest rants about a book, the rants that get a lot of press from other people commenting back on their rants--are not the comments I agree with. Full disclosure--I've read some of them to see what it was that was so heinous to deserve only one star.
Hmm.
It seems to me that many times the reader is rating themselves and not the book.

I mean
1. The person admits they don't really like or read that genre. (so don't)
2. The person says they don't like the character. (so what)
3. The person says (of an ARC) they would never buy that book. (so don't)
4. The person says they would never want a relationship like the one in the book. (so what)

In the case of most rants, the reviewer is ranting about what they like, what they want, what they would do, not about the merits of the book. And knowing that helps me find book recommendations that someone else might rant about, but I loved.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Start Here

What am I reading now? An Unlikely Match (Sarah Eden)
Annd . . . what do I think so far?  I think I've said it before, but this is one of my favorite authors! She writes lovable, witty, funny characters in situations that seem impossible to reconcile, with surprising twists that bind the characters all together into a story that will stay with you long after you close the cover on the last page. This book is not an exception either. I definitely recommend it!

In this story, Nickolas Pritchard, a penniless Englishman, inherits a fortune and an ancestral home in Wales. Upon taking possession, he finds the resident ghost, Gwen, who has been bound there for four hundred years, gives the final word on what will be acceptable in the home--and it's best for everyone not to cross her. Over days and weeks an attraction between them grows.
How can a man and a ghost have a happily ever after?

Start Here
Wouldn't it be great if, when we wrote novels, we knew right where the beginning of the story was, and equally great, if we knew where the ending was? I know it seems like something that should be obvious. But it's not. There is no magical story map that takes your characters and story concept and identifies the start, end and important plot points in between.

Here's some advice I've been given (more than once and by different people, so it seems like it might be good):

Start on the day when everything is different
Start when your character must make a life changing decision
Start when your character is avoiding a change

Ultimately, story is about change, starting with the need for change and ending when change has been completed.