Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bookmark Binge: February 24, 2013

In case you haven't gotten enough of...

The Reece Malcolm List?.
Amy Spalding has a bunch of bonus features on her site including an official playlist, a location/scene map and spoilery FAQ.
Read Amy's interview with Nova Ren Suma and Amy's interview with her agent at kt literary.
And of course you can go down YAA memory lane by checking out the cover reveal and Maggie's recap of the launch party.

Life in Outer Space?
Read interviews with Melissa Keil over at My Best Friends Are Books and YAtopia and Book Probe Reviews.
Melissa Keil is the first author signed by The Ampersand Project.  Read more at their site.

Leviathan has one of the most awesome book trailers I've ever seen. And what about all those wonderful illustrations in the trailer (and book)? Scott Westerfeld discusses working with an illustrator in this video.
You can also actually buy prints of some of the illustrations in the book too!
If you are into audiobooks, Alan freaking Cumming does the narration for this series! Just listen to the sample first chapter.  Love him.
And Scott Westerfeld's blog is a treasure trove of fun Leviathan things in general, including different countries' cover art for Leviathan (China is a fave), fan art, cosplays and more.

(Hypothetically) Upcoming Reviews:


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Leviathan #1
Reviewed by Noelle: February 20, 2013
Published by Simon & Schuster on October 1, 2009
Goodreads • Buy at AmazonKindleBook Depository

Blisters, I'm rusty at reviewing! Good thing Leviathan is going to make it pretty easy for me:  I mean, any time you can give me action and adventure--most of which takes place in the belly of an airborne whale? Just show me where to sign at the dotted line.

Leviathan has one of the more interesting steampunk set ups I've encountered in my forays into the genre.  Usually I've found that Steampunk worlds are split up into us and them--the people gung-ho about the new steam-related technological advances and the people who want nothing to do with the new-fangled inventions (which I understand fear of the unknown but as someone who is still waiting for a robot to do my laundry, I don't have much patience for.)  In Leviathan's world basically everyone is on board with the technological advances, they just can't agree on the best way to go about it.

In one corner you have the Clankers, which are the more traditional steampunk pioneers who focus their advances on mechanical based innovation such as machines, walkers, weapons etc. In the other corner you have the Darwinists who use genetically modified hybrid animals--hydrogen whale airships, messenger lizards and other beasties--for their advancements.  Leviathan starts with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and veers into it's alternate steampunky history from there.  The Clankers and Darwinists find themselves on opposite sides of the impending World War.

That brings me to another thing that made Leviathan so easy for me to love: it has three of my favorite tropes.  Now, tropes can get a bad rap but they are tropes for a reason--they are classics! And when used correctly (which Westerfeld does) result in a reading experience enjoyment that clicks into place like clockwork (steampunk pun!)

Trope Fave #1: Uptight sheltered prince who gets dumped into the real world and has to survive by his previously unused bootstraps.

Trope Fave #2: That plucky middle class rough around the edges steamship crew member is actually a girl!  (The girl disguised as boy thing not as much as the girl who's crew member of a steamship and could mop the floor with your Clanker boots thing.)

Throw them together and you get one of my fave tropes of all time (I may have mentioned it once or twice): Buddy Cops of Convenience.  Two wildly different personalities/upbringings/cultures who would NEVER work together usually but get stuck together in order to complete a common goal.  Banter, reluctant teamwork and mutual respect ensue and I am pretty much guaranteed to love every moment of it.

Add in adventure, intrigue and expertly written action scenes and you get a book that is practically tailor-made for me to love.  I can't wait to see where the series takes me next.  Rating: 4/5 stars.

This book was chosen by me by Heidi for my 13 in 2013 Book Resolution so thanks for Heidi for such a fun choice!  Only 12 more to go.

ALSO why don't more books have illustrations?  It was wonderful flipping the pages to see an illustrated scene.  Then again I'd make every novel have them if it were my choice.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Podcast: Our YAA Monthly Meeting

Welcome to our Monthly Meeting for fellow YA addicts, now in podcast form!  Take a listen below and let us know in the comments what you did to indulge your YA habit this week.

You can also download it here: Mediafire

Visual aids for this podcast:

Thanks for listening! How about you? Any hypothetical literary tattoos you'd like to share with the class?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Launch Party: The Reece Malcolm List

We have three words for you, Amy Spalding: Launch. Yo. Self.
I usually find out about book events in LA after I read about them in Rachel's recaps on The Reader's Den, but I had the book launch of The Reece Malcolm List circled on my calendar ever since we took part in the cover reveal.

Date: Saturday, February 9, 2013
Time: 5pm
Place: Skylight Books

Book Mani (optional): Zoya Mitzi matte nail polish with Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat
Recap: I love Skylight Books but parking is a nightmare. I once circled for 45 minutes and still couldn't find parking, so my friend and I made sure to leave early on Saturday. We ended up an hour early for the event, which if you know me, NEVER happens. I was late to see MELINA MARCHETTA for crying out loud. Anyway, we scoped out the place and made sure to get seats in the middle/back. Because apparently we're still in high school. 
By the time Amy descended the stairs -- without any intro music unfortunately -- the place was packed and all the seats taken. She read three passages from the book while we munched on amazing espresso bourbon cupcakes.
After the reading, she opened it up for a Q&A. Some of the people asking questions also have books coming out this year, like Robin Benway (Also Known As, February 26), Sarah Skilton (Bruised, March 5), and Brandy Colbert (A Point So Delicate). I always forget that not all YA authors hail from Australia and some even live in LA. One of Amy's friends j'accused her of stealing Sai's ethnicity from her own Indian-Chinese-white makeup, and we all laughed and stoned her.* There was a ton of great Q&A that I didn't write down because of cupcake hands. 
I ended up buying 3 extra copies to send to Estelle from Rather Be Reading, Chachic from Chachic's Book Nook, and Mandee from Vegan YA Nerds. Estelle was reading Reece that morning and ended up loving it (her review). Chachic is coming to LA in a few weeks and I thought the LA setting of this book would be the perfect accompaniment. Mandee and I do regular swaps of all that is YA, and after all the great books set in Australia she's sent me, I'm glad I could finally send her something set in LA.
This was a great event by Amy Spalding and Skylight Books. Tom Haverford and Jean Ralphio would be jealous proud.

*No one was harmed during the launch of The Reece Malcolm List.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding

The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding
Reviewed by Maggie: February 8, 2013
Published February 5, 2013 by Entangled Teen
Goodreads • Buy at AmazonKindle • Book Depository

What do you do when you're sad? Me? Les Miserables (Original London Cast), Disc 1, Track 5: I Dreamed a Dream
Upset about a boy? Wicked, Track 8: I'm Not That Girl
Outraged over something? Ragtime, Disc 2, Track 15: Make Them Hear You
Getting ready to parrrrty? Rent (Original Broadway Cast), Disc 1, Track 14: Out Tonight
Why yes, that is a Korean edition of the Les Miserables Original London Cast.
I needed emotional support on my first trip to Korea after being castigated
for not speaking Korean well so I demanded my mother buy it for me. 
If the soundtrack to your life is found on soundtracks to shows, this book is your kindred spirit.

Here are some things to know about Devan Mitchell:
1.  She loves to sing and perform.
2.  Her father just died.
2a. But it's mitigated by the fact that:
"Kids in musicals without parents always ended up okay -- Annie got Daddy Warbucks, Cosette got Jean Valjean, Christine got stalked by the Phantom though she did get to make out with Raoul."
3.  Her stepmother can't stand her.
4.  She found out about her birth mother through a book dedication.
5.  She's never met her birth mother.
6.  She's never kissed a boy.
"Also, ugh, really? Dad is dead and my long-lost mother would have totally preferred to stay long-lost, and I'm feeling sorry for myself about boys?"
Two of those things will change when she moves to Los Angeles to meet and live with her mother, award winning author Reece Malcolm.

The Reece Malcolm List is like an alternate world version of Gilmore Girls, exploring what would have happened if Lorelai had given up baby Rory and Rory focused on musicals instead of Harvard. Like the show, the book is a mix of humor and heart with snappy dialogue and a cast of memorable characters.

I liked Reece immediately. She's moody and socially awkward, and the only reason I don't mock the way Devan talks (like, like, like) is because Reece does it first. Okay, that also makes her kind of a bitch, but she's my kind of bitch. At 32, she's a successful writer but I love that she doesn't have her shit together. She's not only someone I would hang out it, but probably someone I already do hang out with. Devan never really fit in at her old schools but transferring to a performing arts high school finally gives her a place where she belongs. I mentioned the way she talks (like, like, like), but her voice is so authentically 16. I love that she's a bit timid and unconfident in real life but the minute she's on stage and in character, she unleashes everything inside. For a girl who's constantly apologizing, the one thing she doesn't apologize for is her talent. Reece tells her,
"When you sing you're this force of nature, all fearless and bad-ass. Then you switch off, and it's weird. It's like you really are in a musical, where you can only express yourself through song or whatever."
No wonder Reece is a best-selling author because that's the perfect analogy. Or whatever.

Of course, I have to mention the boys. There's the guylinered one and the Indian-Chinese one, which HELLO, but the one who held my attention was Brad, Reece's boyfriend. He's the most together person in the book and such a warm character. However, there are no perfect characters in this, and the realistically drawn characters are one of the strengths of the book.

You don't have to love musicals to enjoy this book, but if you are a theater geek, HANDS IN, A-CA-BITCHES! This book is your song.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

I received an ARC of this from the author but waited so long to read it that I bought and reviewed the finished copy instead. Because that's how I do.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Review: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil
Reviewed by Maggie: February 5, 2013
Published by Hardie Grant Egmont on February 1, 2013
Goodreads • Buy at KindleKoboNookFishpond
(We're not a Kobo or Nook affiliate, but whatevs. Get it!)

One of my Top 5 Foreign Language Films (subgenre: drama) is Mostly Martha from Germany. Martha is a sought after, highly regarded chef with exacting standards. (I would call her the female Soup Nazi but Germans + Nazi reference... Let's not go there.) In the beginning of the movie, she talks about how the simplest dishes, like salmon in a light basil sauce, are the hardest because there's nothing to disguise or distract from the flavor. It's all about proper seasoning and precise cooking. These basic dishes are how to judge the quality of a chef. Likewise with books, I think the simple, slice of life stories are the hardest. Without big issues or fantastical situations or death, the story comes down to the characters.

Life in Outer Space is about Sam Kinnison and his group of friends as they navigate a year of high school. Sam is a movie obsessed, World of Warcraft playing geek with dreams of being a screenwriter. He's like Dawson Leery minus the giant head and ugly crying. His best friend, Mike, is a black belt in karate. Mike is also a disco dancing, Oscar Wilde reading, Streisand ticket holding friend of Dorothy, know what I'm saying? When Mike first came out to the group, which also includes Adrian and Allison, they did what any self-respecting nerd would do -- they googled. Based on search results, they ended up watching Xanadu, Lesbian Vampire Killers, and Dirty Dancing. Sam narrates,
"We watched Dirty Dancing. Mike fell asleep, but I had to admit I kind of liked it, which made me question my own sexuality, raising a whole heap of other questions I chose not to examine."
Their routine of avoiding jock/terrorist Justin Zigoni and his crew by hiding out in the IT office is compromised when Camilla Carter comes to town. Camilla is Australian by birth but has spent most of her life bouncing around the world with her famous music critic father. Camilla ends up in the IT office her first day because her laptop won't connect to the school's WiFi. Sam, the IT assistant, can't avoid her, especially when she notices his WoW screensaver and writes down her WoW name.

I want to hug this book. If you've read any of my reviews, you know I talk in movie. Sam, with his Top 5 lists, is a kindred spirit. He's also smart, funny, and totally clueless. He reminds me of two of my favorite YA boys: Ed from Graffiti Moon and Sam from Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Camilla is who Zooey Deschanel and Olivia Munn pretend to be. Hell, she's who I want to be! I mean, anyone who can use Sweeney Todd and Dirty Dancing to taunt is my hero. Adrian steals every scene he's in.

This book is about the little victories in life. Nothing earth shattering, just the times when you say yes instead of no. Do you reply back? Do you risk the dining hall? Do you give in to John Cusack??

Melissa Keil writes with a deftness that shows why she won the Ampersand Project. She gets the right mix of heart and humor and uses little details, like the fact that Sam downloads a movie using torrents, to add to the authenticity of the story. Like I said before, I think these types of stories are the hardest to write. However, when done well, they just make you happy that you read them. Life in Outer Space is done well. I can't guarantee that you'll be blown away, but I can say that you'll be glad you said yes instead of no to this.

Favorite quote: "I will shelve this insanity and store away the memory of her in the hope that one day it'll be distant enough to be useful for a screenplay."

Rating: 4.5/5 stars.

This is my first review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2013.

Monday, February 4, 2013

YAA Soundtrack: The Piper's Son

By Noelle

If you scroll through my favorite books on Goodreads, chances are I have a soundtrack for them on my iPod.  For any other playlist aficionados out there who enjoy making and listening to book-themed soundtracks, you've come to the right place!  We will occasionally be posting links to playlists from my personal soundtrack collection. 

Oh, The Piper's Son. One of my favorite books of all time.  Let's just say I've redone this playlist at least 15 times in the past year.  Lots of family songs.  Lots of second chances songs.  Lots of going home songs.  Yearning, desperate, hopeful songs? Oh, and a few bad life decision songs. I will try not to edit this playlist 15 more times this year but I can't make any promises when there's a Mackee involved.

In the meantime, you can listen to the playlist on Grooveshark. Here's the tracklisting with any liner notes if necessary:

1. Ho Hey - The Lumineers: You may say this is overplayed (the curse of the year old playlist strikes again!) but is it if you pretend it's about Tom Mackee? IS IT?
2. Home - Daughter: "I was drunk again, causing accidents. Oh, you're not a friend, you're nothing."
3. Between the Bars - Elliott Smith: Fathers & sons, part one.
4. Little Black Submarines - The Black Keys: Totally didn't drunk dial you, Tara.  I don't know what you're talking about.
5. The Rat - The Walkmen
6. Hold On - Alabama Shakes: Just so you know, in my mental Mackee movie this is the point where Tom moves in with Georgie.
7. Heart - Oberhofer
8. Cape Canaveral - Conor Oberst: Fathers & Sons, part two. Families! Grief! Ag!
9. Sleep All Summer - St. Vincent and the National: You didn't think I'd ignore Georgie (and Sam) did you?  (Although this works for Tom and Tara too.)
10. Under Mountain, Under Ground - The Lighthouse and the Whaler
11. Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men: Sure this too might be overplayed but find me a more perfect Georgie and Sam song I DARE YOU.
12. Take Me Home - Perfume Genius
13. It All Starts Now - Foreign Slippers: Because I need to end things happy for my favorite characters---even on their playlists!
14. Adventures in Solitude - The New Pornographers: "We thought we lost you.  Welcome back."

As always, thanks for listening!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
(Lunar Chronicles #1)
Reviewed by Maggie: February 1, 2013
Published January 3, 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
Goodreads • Buy at AmazonKindleBook Depository

Are you tired? Rundown? Listless? Do you poop out in the middle of a book -- even one you're really enjoying?

Try CINDER. It will bust you out of your reading slump. And Prince Kai is so tasty too!

I don't know whether I hit the rookie reviewing wall, but I haven't written a review since... November 15?! Don't get me wrong, I've been reading (and taking notes while I read) but that's it. With Cinder, I didn't take any notes or make any highlights. I just read... and read... and enjoyed the hell out of this book. 

Cinder is a cyborg mechanic living in a futuristic New Beijing. She has to work to support her stepmother and two stepsisters. Her stepmother, resentful at being forced to take her in, refuses to buy Cinder a new mechanical foot so she's stuck with the little one from when she was 11 years old. Already, I love this take on Cinderella. Cinder may be the ward of her stepmother, but she's also a feisty, badass mechanic, a la Mercy Thompson. She meets the heir to the throne, Prince Kaito, when he comes to her booth to get his android fixed. Kai's father, the Emperor, is dying of letumosis, an incurable disease that has already taken the life of his mother and many people around the world. As if the letumosis plague wasn't enough, there is the constant threat from Queen Levana, the powerful Lunar queen who has mind altering abilities. 

Basically, this book has a little bit of everything -- action, political intrigue, romance, science fiction, and fantasy. Since it's a retelling of a well known story, the plot is fairly predictable. This isn't Sherlock (one of the many shows I watched in its entirety during my book slump -- what up, Cumberbitches!), where the plot is driven by its mystery. Rather it's the creativeness and freshness of Marissa Meyer's writing that kept me interested in the story. The Cinderella story is the roadmap, but Meyer blazed a completely different and unique trail to take us up to the stroke of midnight. I had so much fun reading this book and her wink wink nudge nudge references to Rapunzel and future characters in this series.

Did I mention this book is set in Asia with a hot Asian prince? Seriously, it's so nice to be able to reference a hot Asian male character other than freakin' Shang from Mulan. So help me God, movie studios, if you cast Jackson Rathbone as Kai, I will throw shit! I pictured a young Takeshi Kaneshiro as Kai. For the androids, I pictured Rosie from The Jetsons. 

If you haven't read this already, you should join the thousands of happy, peppy readers and get a copy of Cinder tomorrow. Hi, Fred! Hi, Ethel!

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Bonus! To help you out of your slump, Macmillan kindly provided a clip from the audiobook. Listen to the entire first chapter here. Available for purchase at Amazon.