June 14, 2011

Love List (5)


Time for another list of things I love (or things that make me happy, whichever way you choose to see it).
Most of these are going to be NYC and Book Expo America related.

Lauren Oliver.
Veronica Roth.
The poster all about Sarah Dessen's books on the subway.
Showering after an 11 hour bus ride.
Surprising my friends.
Purple pens.
New York City.
Book Expo America.
BEA:  Where it's okay, expected even, to have a suitcase full of books.
Meeting the people you love on twitter.
Meeting authors.
That I got a hug from Sarah Dessen.
The view from our hotel room in NYC.
Calling my Dad and being able to say, "We're fine.  Having dinner in Time's Square."
That we took a PLANE home from NYC.
The fact that I got to hug and talk to Michelle Hodkin.
What Michelle Hodin wrote in my Mara Dyer ARC.
Teen Author Carnival 2011.
Talking to Andrea Cremer and Hannah Moskowitz.
Meeting Michelle Zink.
Susane Colasanti.
My Mom for coming to NYC with me.
Meeting Kodi Keplinger and her mom.
Having dinner (or desert) at Serendipity 3.
Serendipity 3's Frozen Hot Chocolate (yum).
That I got to have breakfast with Sarah Mlynowski and E. Lockhart.
Our hotel in NYC.
The people I met at BEA.
Meeting, eating, and chatting with Amalie Howard.
What Amalie Howard wrote in my Bloodspell ARC.
That Amalie loves Glee.
That I saw Glee live in concert.
Darren Criss.  (I know this has already been stated in earlier lists, but after seeing him sing live ... Trust me, it deserves to be said again).
The fact that The Warblers were at the Glee concert.
My Glee concert tee.
Before I Fall.
The Near Witch.
The fact that The Near Witch and I have the same birthday.
Criminal Minds.

I was debating whether to still do this, but then I started and it made me really happy.  I remembered why I started these lists.
I could go on forever, because I loved NYC so much.


June 9, 2011

Author Interview: Sheree Fitch

Sheree Fitch is a Canadian author, and grandmother. She's written books for young adults, children, and adults.
I've only read one of her books, but I fell in love with it. Pluto's Ghost has one of my favourite narrators. Jake Upshore even has his own dictionary, which he titles his Frictionary.
I'm grateful that I could speak with Sheree about Pluto's Ghost. I hope you're as interested with Sheree's answers as I was.

Read & Riot:  Favourite book?
SHEREE:  I'm such a reader it's hard to pick  -- but for now --- a book that made a big impact on me:  The Diary Of Ann Frank. As an adult The Bat Poet by Randall Jarrell. It is an allegory about finding voice as a writer/ poet.  I also love short stories ---- Alice Munro is a favourite.
R&R:  Favourite author?
SHEREE:  These days--- Lorrie Moore, Meg Wolitzer,  Elizabeth Strout,  Alice Munro.  
R&R:  Favourite songs?
SHEREE:  Somewhere over the Rainbow, Money for Nothing.
R&R:  Favourite fictional character?
SHEREE:  Gulley Jimson in The Horse's Mouth and okay, here my silly side is showing--- Pippi Longstocking.
R&R:  What fictional world would you love to live in?
SHEREE:  GREAT QUESTION!  Mary Poppins or the one I'm currently writing.
R&R:  What’s one item that you should throw away, but probably never will?
SHEREE:  Hmm. Good one. Knick knacks that clutter but were gifts so have a sentimental value..
R&R:  If you had a time machine where would you go?
SHEREE:  Spain during the Napoleonic wars and be a nurse.
R&R:  Vampires or werewolves?
SHEREE:  Neither.  Fairies and elves.
R&R:  How did it feel writing Jake Upshore?  I feel like he’d be difficult, and a hard character to get right.
SHEREE:  IT was excrutiatingly challenging, intense, sad but sometimes joyful.
R&R:  Were there any complications with him?  Writing him?  Editing him?
SHEREE:  YES. I needed to get out of the way and let him tell the story. I kept wanting to make him nicer or smoother or what I considered less rough around the edges and he kept saying you're okay in your Shep kind of way but I'm me and a guy and 18 and in a bind. So please get outta my way … let me talk!  Sometimes things popped up and I went what- wha??? There is a kind of truth when writers claim sometimes a character takes over.
R&R:  I can’t imagine how you wrote him.  He’s such an incredible and complex character.
SHEREE:  Aren't we all? I mean if we stop and think about it --every human being is complex. I know I'm biased-- but I love Jake too. You are an excellent, sensitive reader, the kind I hoped/dreamed would find their way to this book and Jake's story. You've picked up the nuances and layers in the novel and his character. Jake's  narrative asks we do that--- that we look beyond appearances to see the humanity or inhumanity --- in others and of course, ourselves. So thank you for doing that! For ---well, "getting" it !
R&R sidenote: Jake is one of my favourite characters, so I'm also biased, but I truly loved reading him. He was a great narrator, and deserved to be noticed.
R&R:  What genre do you prefer to write, because you’re all over the map.
SHEREE:  My job, (I think), is to explore and create with words.  I don't want to keep playing safe or repeat myself and I dislike being put in a box. So yes, all over the map because, in a way, I'm making the map as I go --  exploring and risking as a storyteller. You can do that by sticking to one genre of course because there is always something to learn, but experimenting with form and genre is important to me.
Right now, I'm half thinking of theatre again -- a one woman show and maybe a children's opera.
R&R:  Did you always want to write or did you just stumble upon it?
SHEREE:  Yes. But the path was not clear ---I started out as a nurse and had ten years of rejection.

R&R:  What was your inspiration for Pluto’s Ghost?
SHEREE:  A lot of boys I've known and met as an educator working in the field of literacy. Also, I was a 17 year old pregnant girl. I'm 54. I think I was travelling backwards perhaps--maybe trying to see what the situation of unplanned pregnancy might be like -- in a whole other fictional  world -- from  a boy's point of view. I'm not really sure. Jake appeared on my page!  Also there were two things in the news I borrowed:  a murder in a grave yard in Halifax years back and a story of a police officer that inspired Derucci's character.
R&R:  Did the story change while you wrote it?  Jake wanting to go one way and you going another?
SHEREE:  YES!!! At one time I put him in some sort of crack house. HE didn't believe it and if I did not and he did not, I figured my readers would not.
R&R:  Did you enjoy making up Jake’s Frictionary?
SHEREE:  SOOOO FUN!  Gave me a chance to do what I love best --wordplay and poems!
R&R:  Has there been any resistance to Pluto’s Ghost?  (eg:  trouble getting it published)  Pluto’s Ghost isn’t exactly PG13.
SHEREE:  I had a publisher from the get go.  I think some folks were shocked that I could go so dark. But I live in this world and come from a police family, so I think this story was my way of bearing witness to certain things... and it was quite an emotional journey to write PG. Not everyone approves for sure or understands why we write the stories we do. Again, you have to be true to yourself. That means accepting the work will not always be "understood" or liked by "everyone" who reads it. (Not even your friends and family.)  
R&R:  Was it difficult to get published?
SHEREE:  YES -- ten years .....of no! And, I am still not in the USA. Do I wish there was more readership for Pluto's Ghost?  It just came out in the fall and is doing well in Canada.   My agent cannot sell the novel in the States so far. I think PG would have readers there (the US), I really do. (Read & Riot agrees).  When it gets rejected, I sometimes question my self and the book and wonder why. Still, it is a very competitive marketplace and I've never "broken into" the US market so I try not to let that undermine me. Of course, I'd like it if one book some day could be  --- more global. In the end, I do not worry about that. I will go on writing no matter where or if published.
R&R:  I think Pluto’s Ghost is perfect, but would you ever write those characters again?
SHEREE:  No --leave them right where they are ---poised toward hopeful.
R&R:  Who does Jake idolize?
SHEREE:  Hard word that word...in this case, I think maybe Skye! Maybe Ideal-ize is more like it.
R&R:  Who do you idolize?
SHEREE:  Well, I loved my dear old Dad a lot.  HE was a gentle man and mentor.
R&R:  What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Judge not your friends by outward show
The feather floats high
But the pearl lies low.

You can contact Sheree by her website, or on twitter!

Thank you Sheree for answering all my questions.

Book Review: Before I Fall

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
On-Sale Date: February 22, 2010
Length: 470 pages
Format: Hardcover

Samantha Kingston dies.
School.  Boyfriend.  Friends.  Parties.  This was Sam’s life.
Only, Sam isn’t really dead.  Or is she?
Every day she wakes up and lives her last day.  She has seven days to live and possibly change the outcome.

This book begged you to ask questions.
What would you do on your last day, if you knew it was your last?  What would you change if you could?  Would you take advantage of a stolen opportunity?  Would you ever make the right decision, or lie down and wait for the inevitable?  Would you ever openly choose death?  Would you welcome it in the end?

I wasn’t particularly fond of the main character in the beginning, so I took great pleasure in knowing she was going to die in the end.  She was too mean for someone so young.  She was too cruel.
You didn’t like her character, (or I didn’t).  Now, either that made her memorable or made you not want to continue.  I shook my head at her and had to pause for brief moments, but always wanted to press on.
I learned that a good character didn’t need to be likable.
Despite the character that Sam began as, I never wanted to stop turning the pages.  I wanted to keep reading so I could see what she became.  There were times that I wished it wasn’t her last day, because she wasn’t only what you saw on Day One.  Lauren gave depth to a character that seemed flat.
Sam was a good friend.  She was not beloved, but she did have people that loved her.
She had fabulous and messy friendships.
Her mother would have been a wonderful character to get to know.  Their relationship was something, and it could have been more.  It could have been anything.
Sam was a bad girl.  She was the text book definition, and she played her part exceptionally well.  Sam’s attitude and actions continuously reminded the reader that she was not an innocent little girl.  She wasn’t so terrible, but she was certainly no angel.  She had a lot to be blamed for.  She had a lot to atone for.
You saw more sides of Sam as her final day was continually relived.  I believed that she was living through a different stage of grief everyday.  Sam grew.  She still wasn’t kind, but no teenager would be a complete treat.

If you knew you were going to die, how would you handle it?  What would you change in one day?  How long would you remain in denial?

During the first few days Sam acted like her regular self, and she even became a nightmare, but she was never evil.  She felt the mix of emotions that anyone would have expected to feel, especially in her unbelievable situation.

Would you hope beyond hope?

Sam’s surroundings were one of the most interesting things.  You got to see the ramifications of one little action or misstep, because Sam did change, and didn’t follow the same path throughout each day.  It was an intriguing concept.
This was incredibly sad, because die by the end I didn’t want Sam to die.  I wanted her to have more stories, and for it to continue.  But you knew, (and so did I), that Sam was already gone.
It took death for Sam to live.
Sam would have remained unchanged and unpleasant if that day, (or days depending on how you looked at it), never happened.
I was left wishing I could have spoken to Sam before the final pages.  I wanted to speak with the author, although I had no idea how to put words into sentences.
I felt that ending.

Sam died in the best and worst way possible.
Maybe I never fully understood what Lauren Oliver was saying through Sam, but I was ultimately changed after reading that last sentence.

Premise: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

June 4, 2011

Early Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Length: 450 pages
On-Sale Date: September 27, 2011
Format: ARC paperback

Mara is just a regular girl ... until she's not.  After going through a traumatic event, it's impossible for her to be the same.  No one's sure how to handle it all.  Her family picks up whatever pieces they can manage, and do their best to hold Mara together.
This is Mara’s life now.  She is consumed by the accident.  She’s figuring out what she can, and filling in the blanks wherever she is able.
Only it’s not that simple.
Mara doesn’t understand the things she’s remembering.  She’s seeing things that she can’t explain; that leave her questioning her sanity.
Just as Mara’s uncovering the truth, she is swept up by Noah Shaw.  Despite Shaw’s reputation, he might be just what Mara needs.
Will Noah be there for Mara or will he end up being the worst thing for her?  What really happened to Mara that fateful night?  And who is Mara Dyer?

This was a book I was waiting for.  The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a book you should be waiting for.  I fell in love with this story.  It kept me enchanted from cover to cover.
Michelle Hodkin didn’t waste time.  Time passed fluidly in Mara Dyer.  There was no boring in-between, only thought provoking narration.  She left you hanging on every word.  Every chapter felt as if it was it’s own story.
It’s not easy to come back to yourself after a traumatically horrible event, and sometimes you find that you become someone else entirely.  Mara had no memory of what happened to her that awful night.  She didn’t know what part she played.  Her lack of recollection was wearing her down, and made her increasingly unstable.
This wasn’t something that Mara could have prepared for.  There was no instruction manual for the confusion or pain she felt, though many felt that therapy and medication were the right direction for her. Ultimately, whichever path Mara chose was her decision.
Mara seemed broken, and she was definitely confused, but that never deterred from her character or personality.  She was lost, but all it took was new surroundings to trigger her rediscovery of herself.
The story was situated around Mara Dyer, and her family was a part of her.
Mara’s family was completely imperfect, but they were the true definition of family.  Yes, Mrs. Dyer was a little overbearing and neurotic, but she was a good mom.  She did everything she could for her kids, but even she couldn’t control everything.
Mr. Dyer was as sweet as could be.
Mara’s relationship with her brothers was unparalleled to anything else.  Even twelve year-old Joesph looked out for his big sister.  The charm to their interaction was that it felt so completely real.  I could see my brother and I in them.
Each sibling had their own distinct identity, but you could see the similarities that labelled them as family.  They had the same way of communicating, but didn’t share the same interests.
When one family member was down the rest tried that much harder.
This dysfunctional family functioned as one unit.
Michelle Hodkin truly created family.  The Dyer’s were wonderful to read about.
Mara’s love interest was an arrogant jerk, until you got to know him, then he was just plain arrogant.  I liked that Noah had characteristics you didn’t like about him.  He was cheekily cavalier, and could not have been more amusing.  In many ways Noah was opposite to Mara, but they shared deep similarities that strengthened their connection.
The character interaction was fluent.  I loved the banter between the characters.
I predict that the ending will startle readers, however, I thought it was literary genius.  You will question everything, and your jaw will drop.

One thing's for sure, the Mara Dyer you start with won't be the one you end with.

Premise: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from the publisher. This did not influence my review in any way.