Saturday, June 30, 2012

Comment of the Week!

Each Thursday we ask our readers a deep question and each Saturday we pick our favorite response and award the commenter with the book of his or her choice from The Vault.

Here be dragons
Or, er...books

This week's question (which was extra deep):

What's something about life that you thought you saw clearly as a teen, but now see differently?

And this week's winner:


Here's one I realized last night, during my celebration of Nora Ephron (spoilers for You've Got Mail, I guess, although really guys, you've had your chance to see it):  when I saw You've Got Mail as a teenager, I thought it was super romantic how they found each other on the internet AND on real life, OMG.  My mom said it was creepy the way Tom Hanks deceived Meg Ryan for fully half the movie.  In fact:  yes, it is creepy.  Tom Hanks plays a real jerk in that movie, and Greg Kinnear's character is really a pretty good guy.  But they're both beside the point because now I just ship "Meg Ryan/Meg Ryan's Bookstore" and really lose interest after the bookstore exits the picture!   So, to generalize:  I've come to appreciate good, caring, drama-free relationships.  Also bookstores.

Mrs. are SO RIGHT about drama-free relationships. But those sure don't make interesting books or movies, do they? And, oh yeah, TEAM BOOKSTORE!

Drop us a line and let us know which book from The Vault tickles your fancy. (We don't have quite as many books as Meg Ryan's bookstore, but it's pretty close.)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Teen 2 Text: an interview with a 13 year old via text message

My niece J is 13, and will be in 8th grade soon. She's a true Renaissance girl: she's a competitive swimmer, a dancer, on the poms squad at school, a model, she loves to read, and she gets good grades. Basically my niece is completely awesome.

I caught up with her via text message because she's so busy this summer. Check it out:

Me: What's the most recent book you read? Did you like it?

J: The most recent book I read was 'Bottled Up'. It was a book about a kid using drugs and alcohol as a way to get thru his day with an abusive father. I really liked this book.

Me: What's your favorite book (or books) and why?

J: My favorite book is 'Looking for Alaska' by John Green. I loved this book bcuz the message this book sends is powerful and really true in today's society.

Me: What's your least favorite book and why?

J: My least favorite book was 'Dark Eden'. This book was horrible; badly written, the plot was confusing and nothing made sense.

Me: What's your favorite genre?

J: My favorite genre is fantasy or fiction.

Me: Do you think the authors you've liked have done a good job portraying what it's like to be a teenager? Why or why not?

J: Sometimes not bcuz they don't think reality sometimes.
Me: Don't think reality?

J: They don't put characters in a situation that really happens in life.

Me: Like what?

J: Like, just read any book and u wld find at least one thing that wld never happen

Me: Hahaha. Can I ask you a couple questions about modeling?
J: Sure :)

Me: Yay! What makes you want to be a model?

J: What makes me want to be a model is that modeling just seems so much fun. U get to wear amazing clothes, broadcast ur talent...Its just amazing.

Me: How do you go about becoming a model? How do you practice?

J: I went to my local mall and tried out. The company (Audition America) was looking for modeling potential. I practice by watching the way my feet have to cross over at the ankles and facial expressions like an actor. No duck faces please.

Me: Do you have any more modeling things planned for the summer?

J: I just signed my contract for audition America and now I can sign up for modeling jobs.

Me: Does everyone get a contract or only certain people? What does signing up for a job entail? Is it an audition?

J: No. Only 25% of the people who got to the state round got a contract. And yes, it is an audition. U try out with a bunch of other men and women looking for the same job.

Me: Ooh congrats!

J: Thanks!

A huge thanks to J for answering all my questions, and a huge GOOD LUCK with the modeling!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Going a little deeper today!

Every Thursday, we post a question for our followers--and every Saturday, one of the commenters will be selected to choose a title from our Vault! ARCs, signed books, awesome books... Anything we have--you get to choose.

To enter, follow YA Confidential and please make sure that your email address is linked to your comment in some way! (So we can get in touch with you :)

Today's question:
What's something about life that you thought you saw clearly as a teen, but now see differently?

Our Answers

Cristin: When I was a teenager, I thought I would reach a point in my life where I felt like I knew what I was doing, where things were settled, and where I felt like an actual grown-up. If such a point exists, which I now seriously doubt, I definitely haven't reached it yet!

Katy: Ha! Can I just say adulthood in general? As a teen, I thought my parents had it SO easy - they could do whatever they wanted! Turns out there's a lot of stress and responsibility that comes with being grown-up (a term I use lightly). Paying bills isn't all it's cracked up to be... Who would've thought?

Jessica: My teachers! I thought teaching had to be pretty easy when I was a teen, and I didn't think much of the things that my teachers did for me or taught me. Now that I've been a teacher myself for a few years now I realize how much work goes on behind the scenes, even for the simplest of lessons. Teaching is a lot harder and takes a lot more than I ever realized as a teen.

Cambria: Man...this question is deeeeep. But as a teen, I would've bet anything that attending a college far far away where no one knew me was the answer to all my problems. I think I figured a clean slate also meant my memory would somehow be erased, too. But now I know you can't ignore your problems just by putting some mileage between it. The best way to deal with things is to acknowledge it exists and then WORK THROUGH IT.

Copil: I assumed my classmates' great triumphs and sad failures could never be mine. They were too happy or smart or strong or troubled or suicidal. Now I realize the capacity for greatness and darkness resides in all of us. You know how they say we share 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees? Turns out we share 100% of our DNA with other humans.

Karen: As a teen I assumed there was always time to make up with people or tell them I love them, but I learned the hard way that you never know when it's your last day with someone.

Matt: When I was a teenager, I knew without a doubt that all adults could not be trusted, were selfish, and would screw you over in a heartbeat. Now that I'm adult, I know there's at least one who's okay.

Alexandra: That having a college degree would help me get a job. And unfortunately I'm only half joking with that answer.

Your turn!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Undercover Wednesday: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Monstrous Beauty

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama (September 4th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

From GoodreadsFierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences. Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in Hester's family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka, and to a tragedy of long ago.

Guys. Monstrous Beauty is everything you want in a YA paranormal romance. It's layered and atmospheric and sexy, and packed full of twists and turns. Chime author Franny Billingsley says about Monstrous Beauty: "Dark and sensuous as the sea itself, this fiercely intelligent page-turner explores love, loss, and new beginnings." 

I couldn't have said it better myself.

This book gripped me from the earliest pages and never let go. Its characters are unique and unforgettable. Mermaid Syrenka is absolutely captivating: a tortured, lonely soul who finds true love and does everything in her power (literally) to keep it. Contemporary Hester is a smart, sensible girl, equal parts relateable and enviable, who finds herself wrapped up in a generations-old mystery. And Ezra... A nearly flawless love interest who has the mind of a scientist and the heart of a hopeless romantic. There are others, too: a loyal best friend, a drunken pastor, an odd little girl who likes to play in an ancient cemetery, and an Ursula-esque sea queen who totally gave me the creeps. 

Monstrous Beauty boasts one of the most tightly woven mysteries I've read. It's a study in entwining subplots, which is especially impressive considering that this novel unfolds during two different time periods, decades apart. By page thirty, I was sure I'd figured out how the story would end. By page sixty, I was reexamining everything I thought I knew. By page one-hundred, I was picking my jaw up off the floor. Seriously. The mystery, its layers, its inter-connected characters, its perfectly-paced reveal... I was mesmerized. 

The writing in Monstrous Beauty is simply stunning. The story is told in third person which is not normally my favorite perspective, but here it lends a certain elegance and works perfectly with the numerous characters and overlapping story lines. Elizabeth Fama has knack for beautifully detailed descriptions and snappy, realistic dialogue. As much as I wanted a resolution to the novel's mystery, I was too busy appreciating its gorgeous prose to hurry my reading along.  

Monstrous Beauty has a little something for everyone: A complex plot, multi-dimensional characters, a thrilling, chilling mystery, strong writing, a fresh spin on tried and true paranormal, a bit of history, and romance that will have you swooning. It's a sophisticated, intricately told tale for intelligent readers. A definite recommend!  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Teen Roundtable: The Classics, Gap Books, and the Importance of Reading John Green

It’s time once again for our monthly Teen Roundtable with our Teen SPIES! The topic this month? Classics and gap books (books that everyone else has read, except YOU). And our SPIES (and operatives!) were super excited about the topics…

 Lissa: we get to talk about classics today right!??? *happy dance* 
Alexandra: I majored in English in college! I can't wait to do classics! 
Riv Re: they're fun...until the essays are assigned…and the tests…and homework
Katy U: Uh, I need to read MORE classics!

Some of our favorites…

Laura: Classics? Ones I've read, loved, can actually talk about? The Waves by Virginia Woolf. 
Lynsay: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, The Sun Also Rises. 
The Disco Samurai (aka MATT): LOVE: Dickens, Melville, Salinger, Faulkner, Steinbeck 
Katy U: I love Steinbeck too! To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite classic, though. 
The Disco Samurai: Ooh, yes, can you believe Harper Lee stopped after one book!?!? 
Riv Re: Favorite classical author: Poe He's creepy and depressing and terrifying with the weirdest death and he's awesome. I knew half of The Raven at one point 
The Disco Samurai: That's a long, but gorgeous poem 
Alexandra: Poe is fabulous! Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before!!!!! 
Laura: YES! Poe. *sigh* 
Lissa: This is making me want to major in English ten times more, not gonna lie 
Katy U: I like Tell-Tale Heart... It's the best kind of creepy, as is The Pit and the Pendulum... His stuff is so bizarre 
The Disco Samurai: What doesn't Hollywood rip off more Poe stuff? 
Alexandra: Have you guys ever read the story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson? Hands down one of the eeriest short stories I've ever read. 
The Disco Samurai: In HS So chilling, and shocking Probably inspired the reaping in HG 
Riv Re: Ah! Lightbulb, Matt! Genius! 
Ones we’re a little meh about…

The Disco Samurai: Joyce, Hemingway, Bronte etc 
Alexandra: Ew. I would go back in time and kill Hemingway if I could. I'd kill Hitler first, and then I'd kill Hemingway. 
Riv Re: Alexandra, you don't believe in the Evil Baby Orphanage? 
Alexandra: I think Hemingway was a sexist asshole. I can't stand his portrayal of women. I feel like they're cardboard and stupid. And I'm soooo tired of the whine whine whine Hemingway's characters do. 
Lynsay: Well I can't totally disagree with that I guess, but I really liked the whole Lost Generation thing he did. 

And the classics we had mixed opinions on…

Lissa: Has anyone read Catcher in the Rye? 
The Disco Samurai: That's Salinger, and yes I LURVE it. 
Katy U: Not a fan, Lissa. 
Lissa: Katy, I've got mixed feelings. It was meh. Holden is way overrated and the language drove me crazy, but for some sick reason, I liked it a bit 
Katy U: Yeah, Holden was a little bitter for my taste.
Alexandra: I think Holden has one of the most consistent first person voices I've ever read. As far as craft goes, it's a brilliant book. 
Lissa: Like, I knew the bitterness was intentional, but it was too much to handle sometimes. But yeah, Alexandra, he was consistent and I was fond of him most of the time 
The Disco Samurai: Many call it the first true YA voice, whatever that means 
Katy U: Definitely a unique voice, one I think people either love or hate 
Lissa: But didn't the constant "old friend" or whatever drive you CRAZY?
Alexandra: Hah kinda yeah. The same way "here's lookin' at you, kid" drove me nutso when I watched Casablanca! 

Melville anyone?
Alexandra: Moby Dick is eeeeevil. Oh my goodness, I know it's supposed to be brilliant, but I was SO BORED. There's an entire chapter on the whale's "whiteness" it's like details details details details blah blah blah blah NOTHING HAPPENS in Moby Dick. 
Riv Re: it's about a whale, Alexandra… a white whale 
The Disco Samurai: Hah! Nothing much happens in so many classics. Or if it does, it takes 1500 pages. Les Mis? 
Riv Re: HUGO is love, also (until the essay is due) 
Lissa: That's true Matt. A lot of them are overrated IMO 

How about those ladies?
Alexandra: This is my decree. So much of what's "classic" is still so male. So time for lady authors. 
The Disco Samurai: Pick one, Alexandra. 
Alexandra: Mary Shelley! 
The Disco Samurai: Hells yes. Frankenstein is the bizness. That meant cool (in the 90s). 
 Lissa: I NEED to read Frankenstein 
Alexandra: My favorite classic by a woman? THE VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN by Mary Wollstonecraft!!!!!! It's an essay, not a story, by Mary Shelley's momma 
Lissa: *cough* Charolette Bronte *cough* Jane Eyre, hands down! I loved the writing style AND the characters. I just loved how deep it actually went psychologically I guess. It was so ahead of its time, in terms of women's rights and feelings, and I think it broached a lot of subjects with maturity and intelligence while still doing so in a gorgeous way - prose wise, and character wise 
Riv Re: HATED Jane Eyre 
Lissa: WHY???? 
Riv Re: The Jane Eyre Rant: I've never been in love, but If You Love Him, Marry Him. Running away confuses everyone (especially me) 
The Disco Samurai: I like Jane Eyre, but I couldn't get into the other Bronte sisters stuff. Maybe cause they made us read it. 
Alexandra: I'm not a fan of the Bronte sisters, but I'd rather talk about Charlotte than Emily. Also, Mr. Rochester is a sexist dickwad. 
Katy U: Ha! Now I want to read it! 
Lissa: NO! I love Rochester. He's a sexist pig but I have a soft spot for him for some reason 
Alexandra: Better Mr. Rochester than Edward Cullen
Lissa: I'm trying to read Wuthering Heights now and am slowwwwwly falling asleep 
Alexandra: Because Wuthering Heights is a soap opera and it's also a frame story within a frame story which is the worst narrative structure idea EVER 
 Lissa: I really don't get the big deal about that one, though her sister (Charlotte) blew me away 
Lynsay: I love the Bronte sisters. How was there so much talent in one family? 
Lissa: I have to agree on that Lynsay. How come they all have writing talent? Though I don't appreciate Emily's as much as Charlotte's, I still have to admit her writing is impressive
The Disco Samurai: Someone needs to remix Jane Eyre. Like those silly ... and Zombies books (I'm kidding) 
Lissa: Has anyone read those Zombie takeoffs? Honestly, I can't imagine people reading them
Alexandra: No. I could never pollute Pride and Prejudice in my mind by reading that zombie takeoff and I love zombies 
Riv Re: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter! I read it before it was cool 
Alexandra: I'm actually kind of excited about the Lincoln movie 
Lissa: There's a book? 
The Disco Samurai: By the same imprint that die PPZ and Sense and Sensibilty ... and Seamonsters. 

Other favorite lady authors? Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and Harriet Beecher Stowe…

The Disco Samurai: I was going to ask about Uncle Tom's Cabin (UTC).  Harriet Beecher Stowe I read it in HS, and remember being pleasantly surprised it was by a woman. Can't remember why. 
Alison: I remember reading UTC in high school and really liking it 
Lexie B.: Never read Uncle Tom's Cabin, but we learned about it this year in American Studies. Very influential to the abolitionist movement and such. 
Laura: I haven't read UTC but searched for Paper Town's one day and it came up instead. According to Goodreads, John Green wrote it, not Harriet Beecher Stowe. Riveting. 
Lexie B.: Yes, John Green is secretly a vampire who's existed since the 19th century! 
Riv Re: wait. he's too cool to be a vampire! 

And our Gap Books
Alexandra: Actually speaking of John Green, I've never read anything by John Green. Partially because I'm not really a fan of contemporary. Also because I prefer to read books by women. 
Lexie B.: Alexandra, THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. John Green is FLAWLESS. His books and the man himself. FLAWLESS.
Alexandra: But he's not a girl. 
Riv Re: i have contempt for contemp but he's awesome 
The Disco Samurai: All Greens books are gap books for me I WANT to read them, but haven't 
Alison: OMG, READ JOHN GREEN NOW I've read every one! LOVE LOVE LOVE 
Lexie B.: As have I. His books are the kind of books that change you. 
Laura: Looking for Alaska - HEARTBREAK. 
Riv Re: YES Also: watch his videos 
Lexie B.: The vlogbrothers are the best, man. 
Alexandra: Lol, I find watching people talk at the camera on youtube to be REALLY awkward. I seriously cannot do it. 
The Disco Samurai: I do enjoy the vlogs 
Riv Re: omgosh DFTBA*. John Green is the most amazing man in the world 
Lexie B.: I totally agree, Riv. He's my favorite author, hands down. 
The Disco Samurai: It seems we've unearthed some passion here, Alexandra 
Riv Re: you have to read his books in order 
Lexie B.: Start with LfA (Looking for Alaska) and progress chronologically from there. 
Riv Re: LfA almost had me in tears I never cry at books or movies 
Laura: aaaah! LfA was...woah. 
The Disco Samurai: People tell me to end with TFIOS (The Fault in Our Stars)
Lexie B.: They're right. I wouldn't recommend starting with TFiOS because it's the best. 
Alison: TFIOS makes your stomach hurt from laughing and your heart hurt from crying but SO GOOD 
The Disco Samurai: I love a story that pulls both ways like that Alison. 
Alison: OMG and An Abundance of Katherines (AAoK) is AWESOME (says the math person)
Lexie B.: AAoK is definitely his lightest book, and still completely fantastic. 
Laura: See, I didn't like Paper Towns that much. Thinking I'll like AAoK better. 
Lexie B.: Paper Towns was my second favorite, but I know opinions vastly differ there. 
Alison: I LOVE Paper Towns! 
Laura: Really? What's-her-face annoyed me. See! I can't even remember her name. Wait. Margo. ...Right? 
Lexie B.: Margo Roth Spiegelman. She was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. And that was the whole point. The story was about him taking her off that pedestal he'd placed her upon. She wasn't necessarily supposed to be likable. 
Alexandra: Ew I hate MPDGs 
Lexie B.: Alexandra, the whole theme of Paper Towns was stripping away that mystery and worship and proving that beneath it all, Margo was just a person, as much as anyone else. So it didn't bother me. 
Alexandra: Interesting, Lexie, thanks for telling me that 

*DFTBA = Don't Forget To Be Awesome!
And now that we’re all breaking down Barnes and Nobles doors for some John Green…other gap books?
Lexie B.: Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout. 
Alexandra: I have so many non-classic gap books. Just name a book and I've probably not read it. 
Riv Re: most importantly: City of Bones 
Alexandra: I HAVE read City of Bones! 
Riv Re: another gap book, this one i want to make sure EVERYONE read, so I can ignore whoever hasn't: Harry [freakin] Potter
The Disco Samurai: If you haven't read HP, I can't relate to you. 
Alexandra: I love HP. I consider HP a classic. JKR is a GODDESS 
Lexie B.: I don't think HP is old enough to be considered a classic, but I think that series should be read by everyone and anyone. 
Riv Re: if it's older than me, it's a classic 
The Disco Samurai: Instant Classic, then. It's done so much for reading, books, writing, publishing. LOTR and HP are the two greatest stories ever told. IMHO 
Katy U: I did finish The Book Thief last night... Does that count as a classic yet? 
Alison: That is one of my gap books! Must fix that! 
Alexandra: Alison, that's one of my gap books too 
Lissa: ahhhhhh Markus Zusak i think it's a modern classic 
The Disco Samurai: I just finished the Book Thief today. My god I cried and cried. 
Lissa: Awh that's so cute!!!!!! And I bawled for a straight hour after The Book Thief 
Riv Re: YES. Markus Zusak has the prettiest writing EVER
The Disco Samurai: It's not a classic so much as an instant classic 
Alexandra: Speaking of the holocaust...a serious gap book I've never read is The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank) 
The Disco Samurai: OMG get on it Alexandra 
Lexie B.: You should definitely read it, Alexandra. It gives you a very important perspective, the perspective of a victim.  But a victim who didn't act like a victim. 
Alexandra: Sometimes I avoid books I know will make me cry. Which is part of the reason I haven't read Anne Frank yet. 
Lexie B.: It might not make you cry, to be honest. Not until the end note that tells you what happened to her after the end of the diary. Because for the diary itself, she was very cheerful and optimistic. Beneath all the terror and horror, she was just a teenage girl. 
Riv Re: the real kicker: when they tried to publish it, it was rejected for sounding fake 
Alexandra: My gap books are mostly contemp. I love fantasy. 
Alison: My gap book (aside from The Book Thief) is Graceling (Don't hate me, Alexandra!) 
Lexie B.: I never read Graceling, either! Forgot that one. I've heard very mixed opinions on Graceling. But I want to try it. 
Riv Re: Graceling=best book EVER
Alexandra: YES RIV! 
Laura: I NEED to read Graceling. 
Alison: Okay, good. PHEW. Don't feel so bad, but it's on the TBR 
Alexandra: Graceling has a couple of characterization flaws that makes it look like Cashore is pushing a feminist agenda, but that's not actually the case imo 
Riv Re: she's not. at all. she just makes a kick-butt character. People think that if someone doesn't get married, she's anti-men.
The Disco Samurai: So other gaps books? Mine are pretty much any YA PNR or YA Contemp Romance I like swords more than kissing. 
Riv Re: swords and kissing! 
Alexandra: I haven't but I want to! 
Lexie B.: I love it. Love it love it love it. Although, warning, there IS a fair amount of romance. 
The Disco Samurai: I'm down with Romance as a subplot As long as there are swords
Lexie B.: There are not swords, but there are rifles and knives and magic gifts.
The Disco Samurai: Rifles, eh? Fantasy with guns = weird but cool 
Lexie B.: Yes, rifles indeed. Something really cool about S&B is that unlike most high fantasies, which are English-inspired, the world is Russian-inspired. It's really interesting. And magical. And awesome. 
Riv Re: rifles are cool, but I'm still a sword girl You can't have gun fights! It's just "Pow, you're dead" 
Lexie B.: Not when you're fighting vicious winged monsters and people with magic gifts, Riv! 

Laura: Gah! I have tons of gap books. I don’t know how I call myself a reader. Like, I haven’t read any of the classics you guys discussed before! I live under a rock. I grew up with Alyson Noel books. Apparently, I was more interested in reading about PMS than whale harpooning. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Shame on me and my uneducated brain. I suck. *Slaps forehead* 

I think we all felt that way after this roundtable, Laura! But LOTS of awesomely cool recommendations and as always, SO MUCH amazing discussion!
So, what are YOUR favorite classics? Any gap books? And have YOU read John Green?
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