Saturday, July 28, 2012

Remember that time I finally met Meg Cabot?

Late post is late, but I've been crazy busy, but hey, hey, remember that time I finally met Meg Cabot after a decade of reading her books?

So Meg was here in Pittsburgh on the 15th of July, where she did a talk, Q&A session, and signing at a local Barnes & Noble.   I might have arrived, oh, over two hours early, but that's OKAY, it gave me time to almost finish the new book right there, Size 12 and Ready to Rock.  You had to buy a copy to gain entry to the event, so I did.  There were some other people around talking about her books, and I wanted to join in, but that would have been awkward.  I also found someone who was carrying around The Fault in Our Stars, so I immediately asked if she was a nerdfighter.  She had no idea what I was talking about, but I promised her it was a great book, and told her to have tissues handy.  But anyways, wrong author!  It was so bizarre seeing her in person for the first time, but in a really cool way.  The talk and Q&A were the same old stuff that's plastered all over her website, so that was kind of annoying /hipster MC fan.

Just a few tidbits, though...

  • Her first story was called 'Benny the Puppy', written at age 7.
  • She grew up with a library within walking distance.  Yay, libraries!
  • Writing was kind of a therapeutic way of dealing with life for her.
  • In college, she was told at a party by a guy not to major in Creative Writing, as it would suck the love of writing out of her.
  • She later met that guy again, "thought he was kinda hot, so I married him."  
  • He later said "I was drunk!" re: the earlier party incident.
  • Meg's dad died really suddenly, which kind of brought about this awareness that life is short, and the worst thing that can happen is not trying.  The day after the funeral, she sent out copies of her books (which were subsequently rejected, but!)
  • Her mom started dating her teacher, which was the inspiration for Mr. Gianini and subsequently led to 16 books, but Disney turned it into a movie about a girl who finds out she's a princess, which is not what it's about at its core.  
  • Talked about her other books, celiac disease, clothes shopping, and more.
Q&A (I'm not even bothering with the typical questions on writing/publication, that's what Google is for):
  • Q: Did you use real-life rejection letters you got to help come up with the rejection letters Mia got?  
  • A: Yes!  
  • Q: Any more 1-800?
  • A: She always keeps it open, but the story was wrapped up pretty well.  There IS going to be a new Mediator book, though! (!!!!!!!!)  
  • Q: Will we see any more of the Boy series?
  • A: Yes!  Meg's working on another one in that series, as well as another book in the Heather Wells series.
  • Q: Which of your characters do you have a crush on?
  • A: All, but Cooper has a lot of traits of her husband.  Her husband does not read her books anymore, on Meg's request.  
  • Q: Does the "Disney-fication" bother you?
  • A: She loves the movies, she's glad they make people pick up her books, but she hasn't seen movie two and recognizes that they are set in two separate universes as their own entities (hers is the right one).  She recounted the story of getting a letter from a prison chaplain about the movies being shown to inmates, so they do make a difference.  She's mostly concerned about getting people to read (for instance, Allie Finkle was written as a response for younger children who wanted to read her books, but weren't quite ready for her YA yet.)  
  • Q: Do you still read a lot?
  • A: Yes.  Libraries!  Star Wars fanfic!  She really likes the Betsy-Tacey books, Anne McCafferty, A Little Princess, A Wrinkle in Time, mentioned a mystery novel, Witness the Night.
Then we moved on to the signing part.  By coincidence, I was the first person to get my book signed!  I quickly tried mentioning that I was a huge fan, was a part of MCBC when that was still a thing, I don't know if Meg really heard or anything, she was kind of in a rush, but I got my book signed and I got a picture taken with her, and I left totally shaking because ~feelings~.  To be completely honest, I think this event would have meant a lot more to middle-school-me, when Meg's books really were helping me navigate the world in a more direct way, and I was such a hardcore part of the fandom, but it still feels like my childhood self got to experience something incredible that day anyways.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Leaving Paradise & Return to Paradise

Leaving Paradise
written by Simone Elkeles

Easily one of the best books I've read this year, this original story is an instant YA classic about the transcending power of forgiveness.  It is the ultimate exercise in imagining complexly, but also so much just an amazing story.  Good writing is important, and Elkeles is capable of it, but having that unique, compelling concept to propel the storytelling is critical, and at that, Elkeles' book is perfection.  What a powerful book.  I feel that the main story was slightly cheapened by the last minute plot-twist, which is never explored as much as it could have been, but the underlying message of our shared humanity is still an important one.

Return to Paradise
written by Simone Elkeles

What a shame that a great book like Leaving Paradise got such a lackluster sequel.  If a follow-up story had to happen, which I don't feel it did, it should have at least focused on Leah's role in everything.  It is one of the most contrived, pointless books I've read in a while, which is a shame considering how powerful its predecessor is.  Forgiveness is a powerful central theme, and without Leah around to propel that same original story forward, this book falls flat on its face, and I almost wish it had been Caleb, so the story contained genuinely deep discussions on redemption.  I have trouble believing it's even the same author writing these two books, this was just so bad compared to Leaving Paradise.  I came for the deep, original, beautiful story, and ended up leaving with a pathetic romance novel.  I'm not impressed.  I'd like to pretend a sequel never happened.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Vicious Deep

The Vicious Deep
written by Zoraida Cordova

I haven't read any other mermaid YA novels, although I hear there's a relatively new-ish trend towards the mermaid trope.  After reading this one, I'm really not sure I want to seek out any more mermaid books.  I tried to be open-minded and read the whole book, but really, though, this was not a good book for me.  Just in terms of the writing style, basic sentence variation goes a long way to counter awkward writing.  It's something I personally struggle with, but then, I'm not looking to be a published writer either.  Beyond that though, the story itself...Tristan is the obnoxious popular kid you can't stand at school.  He's full of himself, you can't relate to him, despite his role as the main character, he's shallow, sexist, unlikable...the list of adjectives goes on.  He's a caricature of hotheaded teenage arrogance. Guys, the sentence "I'm not rippling with the muscles of the other bros, but I've got a pretty hot body" exists within these pages.  Honestly?  My favorite characters in this book were Tristan's parents.  That's probably not a great sign for a young adult novel.  People spend so much time and energy ripping apart novels like Twilight, and the criticisms are often merited, but I'd really like to hand those same people this book and see where that goes.  So on top of awkward writing and two-dimensional characters, the plot is convoluted, and I just could not bring myself to care.  If anyone has any good YA mermaid book recs, sure, I'd love to check them out with an open mind, but this was not a book for me.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Black Mirror

Black Mirror
written by Nancy Werlin

Oh, Nancy Werlin, so hit or miss.  I've previously mentioned my feelings on many of her other books, but suffice it to say that her newer material is light years away in quality from her older stuff.  This one was okay, the supernatural elements were thankfully toned down (they work extremely well in Impossible and Extraordinary, can't say the same for the rest...), and it ends up being more of a story about a girl coping with her brother's death, and trying to figure out the complicated circumstances surrounding it, including finding an undercover drug smuggling ring at her school.  It's not a bad book, it's not a particularly well-written or original book either, but I've seen much worse.

Rating: Very 'meh'.  3/5

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
written by Morgan Matson

With so many new debut YA novelists arriving on the scene lately, I've been getting lost and sticking to the familiar.  However, I had this book heavily recommended by a friend and went for it.  I'm so glad I did.  The book is written partially as a story, but has epistolary aspects to it, which I always enjoy.  Amy and Roger getting to literally revisit the scenes of their past results in a powerful journey for them and a powerful story for us.  Unlike many narratives, the idea of 'grief' is not isolated to death, although that does prominently feature, but extends itself out to other kinds of profound, irreversible losses that we all experience.  I'm not usually one to want for a sequel where a sequel is unnecessary, and I understand that things were meant to be left a little open ended, but storytelling-wise, I do think leaving Amy and Roger where they were was a little too open.  I wish we had gotten some more definitive answers on their future.  Regardless, it's a powerful story for anyone who has lost a loved one and had to move on, but be warned, you will want to go on a cross-country road trip once you're done!