This Week: Heeeelp, I’m Drowning!

This Week is where I recap all that happened on the blog, my life, and the blogosphere.

On Adrift on Vulcan

In My Life

Okay, I admit it.

I am officially in a reading slump.

I totally blame all those on-the-fence books. Totally. I finished The Hit by Melvin Burgess a couple of days ago (it was bad, bad, bad) and now I can’t bring myself to start on another of my overdue ARCs because it’s probably going to be another and boring and tiring experience for me. And, okay, maybe Lesley had something to do with this… because I’m currently hooked on Pandora Hearts and can’t stop reading it! And did I mention I’m becoming a pro at reading from right to left?! I am.

This reading slump most likely means that I’m not going to blog as often either, because with trying to reading PH and keeping up with school, I have less time than usual. :(

I also finally got the chance to watch Divergent on Friday, which I’d been wanting to watch but never found the time (or the friends, booo) to go to the theater. My thoughts? Did they just cram two and a half books into one two-hour plus movie? They made quite a few changes, too, which I’m not sure were necessary. But Theo James was perfect as Four, and the chemistry between him and Shailene was so good. I couldn’t stop giggling.

Most likely a 6.5 – 7 / 10.

Notable Expeditions

What do you do to get out of reading slumps?

(‘Cause I kinda need your help here…)

Author Alert: Una LaMarche (Like No Other) + Giveaway

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July’s Author Alert! feature is here, and this month’s featured author is…

Una LaMarche,

author of Like No Other and Five Summers!

I’m so happy to have Una on the blog, especially since her latest, Like No Other, is releasing in stores today, and features some of the most diverse characters I’ve ever seen in YA fiction. So thanks for joining me here, Una — let’s get started!

Q: Describe yourself in five words!

Emotional. Silly. Loyal. Anxious. Romantic.

Q: At first glance, LIKE NO OTHER sounds a lot like other YA contemporaries out there. What are some things that make it different?

Like No OtherWell, while it is fundamentally a contemporary love story—which I’ll grant is not hugely unique in the YA market—I’m pretty sure most of the YA contemporaries out there don’t have main characters who are black or Hasidic. Just a guess.

But more seriously, what I really wanted to do was take that wrong-side-of-the-tracks trope and raises the stakes. I wanted to find a way to bring a real Romeo and Juliet level of drama to a contemporary urban romance. And having lived in New York almost all my life, side-by-side but never overlapping with insular Hasidic communities, I was inspired by that line that never got crossed. Hasidic religion forbids most contact with outsiders, but the emotions of teenagers are really universal; no amount of religion keeps those urges completely at bay. So I thought, what would happen if circumstances conspired to bring an ultra-orthodox girl into contact with a guy she sparked with? How would it play out, how would it affect them both, and could it end in anything but tragedy?

Q: I love that this book features such diverse characters — definitely a rarity these days. Do you have any reasons for this?

Yes, definitely. As I mentioned above, Devorah had to be Hasidic for the kind of high-stakes plot I was going for (and I chose the female character to be the Hasid because women have so many more rules and restrictions that guide their behavior), but I made Jax black because A) it’s geographically accurate, B) it was more interesting to the story, and C) there are so few diverse characters in YA (or really any popular fiction) who aren’t relegated to sassy sidekick roles.

I think there’s absolutely no excuse in this day and age for writers to not to include diverse characters. I think the reason it still happens is because we’re haunted by the phrase “write what you know,” and it’s easy to become afraid of inhabiting a character whose skin color or gender or experience you don’t share. But I think the need for books to reflect the multicultural world we live in outweighs the potential risk to the author (and besides, that risk is probably mostly in our heads).

Q: What was the most challenging part of writing LIKE NO OTHER? What was the nicest?

The most challenging part was researching and writing the Hasidic world Devorah lives in. I have zero real life exposure to that community, and the only people who were willing to speak to me about it were people who had left, since generally speaking those in Hasidic communities are reluctant (at best) to talk to outsiders. But I’m eternally grateful to the organization Footsteps, who hooked me up with a few brave and willing women who gave me invaluable insight into the details that made her daily life come alive for me, from the customs and rules she would live by to the clothes she would wear and the books she would be allowed to read.

The best part of writing the story was creating the spark and romance that develops between Devorah and Jaxon. It sounds so weird, but I sort of fell in love with them falling in love. I knew, at least, that the romance part of the book was going to work because their chemistry was so palpable.

Q: If there were three things you wish readers could take away from LNO, what would they be?

  1. Don’t be afraid of who you really are. My readers probably don’t live in ultra-religious communities, but letting ourselves accept and be true to ourselves is so, so hard no matter what our circumstances.
  2. Love who you love. Race, gender, economic status, sexuality—these things don’t matter when you find someone who lights something inside you. Let yourself fall. Don’t worry about where it will lead. Real love is rare and precious, and it will always change you for the better.
  3. Come to Brooklyn! I’m sort of kidding, but not really. Brooklyn is awesome and everyone should come and visit.

Q: And finally, do you think you could share a short excerpt with us? Just to get us more pumped up? ;)

I don’t see why not… here’s a bit from a secret date they go on in the middle of the book, in Long Island City, Queens:

- x – x – x -

Contemporaries aren’t my favorite books around, but THIS. Like No Other sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Before this, I knew nothing about the Hasidic world (hadn’t even heard of it), but now I want to find out more, and forbidden love has always been sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. I hope this interview made you more excited for this book!

Giveaway

Una has generously offered up a personalized signed copy of Like No Other, as well as a copy of Five Summers to one lucky reader! The giveaway is open internationally — all you need to do is follow the instructions below. Ends August 22, 2014. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UnaHeadshotHi again, I’m Una. Not Uma, no matter what my arch nemesis Thurman would have you believe. I’ve written two young adult novels, Five Summers and Like No Other, as well as a forthcoming comic essay collection called Unabrow, which is based on some of my more questionable life choices (and, yes, a very real, extremely impressive unibrow that I didn’t realize I could remove until I was fourteen years old). When I’m not making ill-advised purchases of 1990s nostalgia items on Etsy, I have been known to write for The New York Observer and The Huffington Post.

I live in Brooklyn, New York with my husband, son, and collection of chocolate-glazed mini donuts. If you read one of my books, somewhere up in heaven, a dance circle will form and an angel will successfully jump over its own leg.

Find Una on her Twitter or website.

Happy Endings vs. Bad Endings

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This discussion was written on the day it was supposed to be published, so forgive any inconsistencies and confusion! It’s just that Rashika’s review of Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid got me thinking about endings of books, and how most of the time, the turn out to be happy. And let me be honest: I’m kind of tired of happy endings.

Before you go screaming “Whoa, sicko alert!” (which Lesley and Mitchii can totally attest to), let me explain where I’m coming from.

I think that life is most of the time a stinking son of a bitch.

We don’t always get what we want. Horrible shit happens. There are days so black that all we want to do is drown in a bathtub and never come up again. Death is everywhere. Not everyone survives the apocalypse – not even the main character. Reality sucks, let’s face it (which is why we read, right? :D). And I’m all for keeping things real. Which is why I feel that a lot of the happy endings these days are slightly unrealistic.

I mean, if the heroine’s going to survive all the time, then I want to save the world too! Who has time to be that nameless sidekick who dies in the end, right?

This is why I want to see bad endings. Endings where the main characters die, especially the narrator. BUT. I don’t want these endings to be cheap ones, convenient attempts at making the reader feel something. I want them to be meaningful and necessary at the same time, if I’m making sense. Yes, I am this picky. Even with my food.

And then I think about all the other normal readers out there, and how they’d probably hate these kinds of endings (because who wants to be faced with the harsh reality of life?), and now I’m wondering if bad endings actually are worth it, and if they should be done. But personally, if I ever wrote a book, I’d want it to be realistic as possible, even if it means that the heroine must die.

What about you, though?

Do you want to see more bad endings in books? Or are HEAs enough? Why?

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters On a Deserted Island

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly featured hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

Ooh, today’s Top Ten Tuesday is going to be fuuuuunn! :D

10 Characters I Want With Me on a Deserted Island

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1. Harry Potter – I swear this isn’t only because I’m a major Potterhead. Harry’s an incredibly loyal character, and not to mention brave and pretty good with magic. If everyone else betrays me, at least I know he’ll be on my side and can protect me.

2. Mikasa Ackerman – You had to know this was coming as well. In case you missed out on my Shingeki no Kyojin post a couple of weeks back, I’m more than happy to gush more about Mikasa’s badass fighting skills and how she’s always able to keep a cool head during fights… unless something horrible happens to Eren. (Sorry Eren, but you’re just too hotheaded for me to include you here. I still love you, though.)

3. Augustus Waters – He was an okay character for me in TFiOS, so I’d want him on the island mainly so he can entertain me with his magical metaphors. Pretty sweet idea, you have to admit. ;)

4. Yukiko & Buruu – Stormdancer was one of my favorite reads of 2013, and even though I don’t talk about it a lot, just know that I absolutely adored all the characters in it. Especially Yukiko and Buruu. They were both kickass and lovable, plus life isn’t complete without your very own griffin, am I right?

5. Ender (Andrew Wiggin) – Even though the author is a bit of a dick, I can’t deny that he’s created a very cool character in Ender. A perfect blend of his brother and sister (so he is both compassionate and cruel) and an amazing strategist, he’d be my best chance of getting off this island if I was trapped on it.

6. Legolas – The best archer in the entire universe! He could play me music and protect me from wild beasts with dem mad bow and arrow skillz. And hey, if I get bored, he could teach me how to become a pro archer as well! It’s a win-win, really.

7. Richard Gansey III — A lot of you don’t know this, but Gansey from Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys has always been one of my book boyfriends. He’s aloof and caring and smart, and I totally ship both him and Blue together (go away, Adam). I think I’d like him on the island to keep me company, he seems nice. But it would be better if I had all the Raven Boys + Blue on the island with me, of course!

8. Celaena Sardothien – I fell in love with Celaena’s character in Throne of Glass even though I did find her career as an assassin slightly questionable. :P She’s kickass with a blade and, from what I can remember, awesome with fashion, so we’ll have fun girly times as well as dangerous fighting times. I couldn’t ask for more.

9. The Darkling (whose name I still do not know) – Do I even need to explain myself here?! Anyone who knows me knows that I luuurrvveee the Darkling with all my heart. Even after the wonderful horrible things he did in Siege and Storm. And I’m pretty dang sure I’ll love him even more after I read Ruin and Rising. He’ll be a great villain to have around.

10. Annabeth Chase — Again, another smarty-pants! Just in case Ender decides to sacrifice me for the greater good, I can count of Annabeth to get me outta here. ;)

Which characters would you like to have with on a deserted island?

Link me up to your TTT post as well, so I can go check it out!

Sources: Legolas / The Raven Boys / Celaena Sardothien / The Darkling / Annabeth Chase

Definitely Horror: The Girl from the Well, Rin Chupeco

The Girl from the WellThe Girl from the Well

Rin Chupeco

“You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.”

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out. 

The Girl from the Well is a YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

I am the fate that people fear to become. I am what happens to good persons, and to bad persons, and to everyone in between. I am who I am.

I’ve always been a closet horror fan — I don’t openly share that I like horror, but I do like scaring myself and getting my heart pumping. So it’s been quite disappointing that so far what little YA horror books I’ve read aren’t real horror at all, but categorized under that just because they contain ghosts and maybe some haunted places. But that was before I read The Girl from the Well. While this book didn’t scare me as much as I’d hoped, it still sent some satisfying shivers down my spine — and that counts, right?

What I liked best about The Girl from the Well was the descriptions. Rin Chupeco didn’t shy away from including gruesome and gory details, like limbs rolling all over the floor or headless bodies under beds. I’ve noticed that a lot of authors tend to gloss over these descriptions, taking away the whole creepy atmosphere of the book in the process. This didn’t happen here, though. The descriptions were vivid and I could picture them clearly. Like this:

And from inside this bathtub a decomposing hand reaches out, grabbing the side with enough strength that the porcelain cracks from the urgency of its grip. The Stained Shirt Man slides to the floor in shock and fright, legs suddenly useless, as I heave myself up and over the bathtub, to land in a heap of flesh before him.

Isn’t that just like something out of a horror movie? So incredibly easy to imagine, and so deliciously creepy, too. I just loved it.

The change of setting in this book was also refreshing — while the first half took place in America, the second half was set in Japan. Japan has always been a mysterious country for me, since it has a very rich history and is of course home to some of the most chilling ghost stories ever, so being able to read more about the well-known tale of Okiku, and actually see things from her perspective, was a great experience. I did wish that the author had explored her character in a little more depth, though.

The main reason why I rated this book 3.5 stars and not 4 was mostly because of my emotional detachment from the characters. It wasn’t that they were boring or anything, it’s just that I felt they lacked emotional depth, so I couldn’t connect with them on that level. Mostly my feelings toward Tarquin, Callie, and Okiku were borderline indifferent, even though I liked them overall. It would’ve been a lot more meaningful and impactful if I’d formed stronger bonds with these characters!

I have to admit that The Girl from the Well took me a little while to get into. The beginning was interesting, but then there was a slight lag in pacing after that, because I had to constantly check back on the blurb to remind myself of where the story was going because it didn’t seem to have a direction at all! It was probably only after 35% in that I finally realized what was going on.

But don’t let these negative things stop you from reading this! At the end of the day, Rin Chupeco’s debut YA book was a true horror novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. I mean, with creepy dolls, exorcisms, murderous spirits and gore, what more can you ask for, really?

3.5 stars

BOOK INFO:
304 pages, e-galley from NetGalley
Published August 5, 2014 by Sourcebooks Fire
Purchase: The Book Depository // Amazon