Julie Cross: The Comfort of Patterns

“Pressure is just that—pressure. It’s all in your head. It has nothing to do with what you can or can’t do.”
―  Whatever Life Throws at You

I’ve always wondered what was more important as a writer: having the agility to make all of your characters and plots completely unique, or being able to write a few things well.

While having cookie-cutter characters and plots would be totally boring (imagine having a template where you just add in names and places), I think the old adage “write what you know” makes sense.

Julie Cross is a perfect example. Most of her books share similar elements:

  1. There is always at least one set of absentee parents. (what a cliche)
  2. The protagonist is usually a  precocious girl in her late teens who’s socially awkward due to an unusual childhood.
  3. Each story has a heavy sports angle to it.

However, these repeats are precisely what makes her books so compelling. Julie Cross writes with a confident authority about sports. I don’t know much about sports or the training that goes into it. The extent of my athletic capability is using a bike to get around dancing alone in my room for an hour.  However, either Cross was once a serious athlete or someone close to her was.  She writes so competently about the persistence, the determination and the challenges an athlete faces, it’s hard to believe anything else.  She doesn’t name drop terms or over-explain them; she just inserts them in a way that is immaculate and natural.
Note: I just googled her and found out that she was a former gymnast and now she’s a coach. 

Though there is always at least a dead parent or a dead-beat one, there is also a rational, supportive adult the protagonist can rely on. Julie Cross is fantastic in dismantling the young adult “the adults can’t be trusted trope”. This is not to say the coach/remaining parent is rah-rah, perfect and infallible . More often than not, they don’t know how to bridge the gap with their teenage ward. They enforce curfews and limit independence and have no idea how to talk about feminine issues. But they do try hard. They are stable and present, making it obvious they have the protagonist’s best interests at heart. Watching an angsty teenager and clueless adult bridge the communication gap and build a strong relationship is truly amazing.  I don’t usually make judgments about people’s personal lives, but I think she would be an amazing mother. I know I sound like a stereotypical teen, but she just gets it. 

“You’re always observing people, but maybe you’re studying the wrong things.”
-Third Degree

By reading her books, you can tell that Julie Cross really likes slow-paced, mature relationships. The romance between characters is always born out of friendship and trust. It begins with talking, then there are demonstrated common interests and showing that you understand and care about your to-be-significant-other. This is the ideal I aspire to for love. The characters (and Julie Cross by extension) deal with sex and intimacy in almost a grown-up way. There is no raging jealousy over exes, although there is some insecurity, which is dealt with by talking (how novel!). In Cross’s books, sex is a big deal (most of her teenage girls are socially isolated and young enough for them to be completely inexperienced) but it’s not called a “precious gift” or a guarantee of marriage. She doesn’t even imply that the first time is perfect; in fact, the moments leading up to it are a bit awkward.

I don’t like “Letters to Nowhere” and “Whatever Life throws” and “Third Degree” in spite of the repetitive patterns. I like them because of it.

Third DegreeWhatever Life Throws at YouLetters to Nowhere (Letters to Nowhere, #1)

 

Margaret Atwood Quotables

I love that wonderful rhetorical device, “a male friend of mine.” It’s often used by female journalists when they want to say something particularly bitchy but don’t want to be held responsible for it themselves. It also lets people know that you do have male friends, that you aren’t one of those fire-breathing mythical monsters, The Radical Feminists, who walk around with little pairs of scissors and kick men in the shins if they open doors for you. “A male friend of mine” also gives—let us admit it—a certain weight to the opinions expressed.

It’s been two years since I began this blog. At that point, it was supposed to be about Young Adult Dystopian books and although I’ve stuck to the young-adult theme, I’ve moved past the dystopian part.

Maragret Atwood is most notable for her book, the Handmaiden’s tale. It’s a very creepy dystopia where women are sold to rich men for reproductive purposes. In the Handmaiden’s Tale world, women have no function other than to serve as concubines. (Talk about objectification).

I wouldn’t consider it YA by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the bread of dystopia. Staple literature which is pretty satisfying.

Plus, Margaret Atwood is a pretty interesting person. Besides being a novelist, she’s also a poet, a business-woman and environmental activist. Clearly she’s a Renaissance woman.

However, I’ve also associated her with the word feminism (Although when I looked her up today, I learned that she’s actually said she’s not a feminist writer). It’s probably because of this quote:

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.

And this one:

We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.

And this one:

A man is just a woman’s strategy for making other women.

I was surprised by some of the quotes that are attributed to her. I mean, I’ve heard of them, but I never realised they were her quotes.  Does anybody recognise this quote?

The Eskimo has fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them; there ought to be as many for love.

And the Gandhian quote, “An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind” rephrased a bit.

An eye for an eye only leads to more blindness.

I’ll end this post with a quote about young-adults.

I’ve never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It’s probably because they have forgotten their own.

Jojo Moyes: Maybe She Writes for Young Adults Too.

Here’s to a bloody brilliant British author who, with her gaining popularity might actually be able to convince those Americans across the pond that their cousins aren’t really all crisp accents, 5 O’clock teas and prim and proper (admit it fellow star spangled banner-ers: you heard it as prop-uh in your head).
And how does she do that? With her mind-blowing honest-feeling, sweet  and believable books, of course!

I know I usually stick to YA books and Jojo Moyes is traditionally considered an adult romance writer, but I think that Jojo Moyes books are something that YA fans would appreciate.
First of all, her characters are believable and natural. Don’t resist sympathising and empathising with the characters- it’s futile. Maybe it’s poor, harassed cleaner and single-mother of two who’s fast losing track of her morals but it still so beautifully hopeful and loving towards her children or the computer geek (turned millionaire), trying hard not to disappoint his military father and whose awful luck with women end with a lawsuit against insider training in One Plus One. Or perhaps it’s the precocious 10  year old girl who desperately wants to go into the water where the marine animals she loves are and is keeping a terrible secret for her mother or the British executive who’s scoping out the land for a watersports hotel (also because he’s having doubts about marriage) but falls in love with the beach, a family of tough women who live there and the whales who migrate there in Silver Moon Bay. It could be the copywriter living in a glass house with a striking painting who’s still half in love with her dead husband or the great painter’s brave wife running a bar and hotel during German occupation during WW2 in the Girl You Left Behind. Whoever it is, you can’t walk away from these books without the characters touching your heart- no your soul. They are just that colourful and vibrant but worn and tired and relatable at the same times.
Second, it deals with moral conundrums that will leave you reeling. Is it okay to steal if you really need it, you know the person won’t miss it and you plan to pay it back? (No.) Can you sleep with a Nazi commander with a strange fascination with art to save your husband from a camp? (Yes, if that’s what you believe). At what point do you choose your personal convictions and moral beliefs over your job? (When you know that something that will haunt you forever if you don’t do what you believe in). Non-preachy and thought provoking- most YA novels wish they did the whole problem-solving thing this well.

Third, she does great side-by-side comparisons of the characters. It’s not a common plot device, but Jojo Moyes often tells two love stories in parallel: one historical and one contemporary, with a common thread linking the two stories together like family, a letter or a painting. It’s whimsical and beautiful, and the juxtaposition really highlights the differences. However, at the same time it shows that human character and things like love, friendship, family, loss and change remain the same- no matter the time period. And that may be the most brilliant thing of all!

Fourth, Jojo Moyes writes about ‘real’ men. Yes, the teen guys in YA books have chiseled jaws, six packs, brooding countenance and smouldering green eyes, but let’s be honest- how many guys have you seen like that? The guys in Jojo Moye’s books are less perfect and are more beautiful for it. With thinning hair, or slightly thicker abdomens than ideal- the love interests in her book could be anybody you know. They may not look perfect, and they’re not perfect- by any stretch of  the imagination. But the men (for these are men, not boys or guys) are principled, skilled, intelligent and patient with hearts of gold- people you’d want in a long-term relationship.

If I had to start you off with one Jojo Moyes book, I’d suggest the Girl You Left Behind. With half the story set in France during WW2 and the other half set in modern-day New York, it’s about love and loss and belief and art-appreciation. The book absolutely wrecked me, because at times it was so, so, sad. No spoilers, but there was a  HEA ending (It wouldn’t be chick-lit without it).  Read the prequel, Honeymoon in Paris. It showcases a different side to the characters, gives you some backstory that you’ll really appreciate after reading the Girl You Left Behind and will get you attached to the characters.
The Girl You Left Behind

Honeymoon in Paris

If you dislike WW2 stories, read Me Before You. It’s no less hard-hitting or tragic, dealing with life debilitating injuries, hopes, real falling in love, bitter rich men, family and suicides.  It’s one of her best-known books for a reason, you know.

Me Before You

So Rainbow Rowell, Elizabeth Wein and John Green fans looking to move towards books targeted towards older audiences, Jojo Moyes is the author for you. Chick-lit lovers and romance fans, Jojo Moyes is the one you’ve been looking for. Hell, if you’re above the age of 14 and female (I don’t mean to stereotype, but…I don’t know many guys who are into the chick-lit/romance scene).

Quotables:

 “All I can say is that you make me… you make me into someone I couldn’t even imagine. You make me happy, even when you’re awful. I would rather be with you – even the you that you seem to think is diminished – than with anyone else in the world.”
– Me Before You

“I was once told by someone wise that writing is perilous as you cannot always guarantee your words will be read in the spirit in which they were written.”
-The Last Letter From Your Lover

“Some mistakes… just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let that night be the thing that defines you.”
-One Plus One

Writers Inspiration: Neil Gaiman

“Life is a disease: sexually transmitted, and invariably fatal.”

This is a quote from Neil Gaiman, a fantastic writer.
The Graveyard Book, The Sandman, Coraline, American Gods, Newverwhere, Good Omens- chances are you recognise at least one of the books. And he’s practically legendary for his dedications. But if there’s one thing that I really admire him for, it’s his ability to convey all the hopes and aspirations of wanna-be writers and life-livers.

He admitted that C S Lewis (author of the Chronicles of Narnia) had inspired him to use parantheses:

“I admired his use of parenthetical statements to the reader, where he would just talk to you … I’d think, ‘Oh, my gosh, that is so cool! I want to do that! When I become an author, I want to be able to do things in parentheses.'”

As someone who really loves parentheses but probably uses them ineffectively (you would know), that quote really struck a chord with me. The words inside parentheses are often cheeky, sarcastic or instructional. C S Lewis, Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket are masters of this rare art.

As amazing as that is, that’s not even the most inspiring thing that (in my opinion that he’s said).

Neil Gaiman Quote Continue reading

Lauren Layne : Isn’t She Lovely?

Remember that post I did recently about Why New Adult Romance and I Have Never Got Along? I am forced to take some of that back. Don’t get me wrong! I dislike the genre as much as I always have but I know that there are some exceptions (actually, if you read that post carefully, you’ll notice that I never implied that all NA was bad.)

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that NA is a sub-category of YA. As much as I dislike the New Adult genre in general, I’m not completely willing to write it off for this reason. It may also be because the 18-25 age bracket which NA is all about is one that I’m eagerly anticipating. Although…if NA’s an accurate representation of that life, I may be actually willing to wait till I’m 18 and in college.

Getting back onto the topic of the hour: Lauren Layne. Lauren Layne’s books aren’t exactly quality literature. I’m sorry to say that, but if I had to classify it into a category it would be a guilty pleasure (for some of them but I’ll get to that later).

Isn't She Lovely (Redemption, #0.5)

The first Lauren Layne book that I read was ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ and it’s a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Pygmalion. In case you need a refresher, Pygmalion was a sculptor who one day, decided to carve a sculpture of his ideal woman. Ironically, he fell in love with her. He prayed she’d come to life and she did but eventually she was unable to live up to his expectations. I’ve always loved the myth of Pygmalion- it does show that you can’t simply project your desires onto someone else because you’ll only end up disappointed that way. However, I had no idea that My Fair Lady (which I completely adore, by the way) was inspired by Pygmalion.
Lauren Layne and her characters do a superb job casting themselves in a modernized version of My Fair Lady set in New York where instead of a cockney accent, it’s her goth self that the protagonist has to give up. In true new adult fashion, the protagonist has a deep, dark past (which I’m sorry to say only evoked sympathy not empathy from me) and is using god-ugly boots and thick eyeliner as a shield to protect herself from her tragic past. She’s grown to accept it as part of her and is understandably hesitant to cast it off, even if it’s for the sake of a film project in which she has to infiltrate the upper echlons of New York society.

One thing that had me really excited me about the book was the beginning. Stephanie, the protagonist and main narrator begins with a sarcastic explanation of what a meet-cute is ( I totally get points for knowing what a meet-cute is despite hating film, right?). To be honest, I’m tired of meet-cute’s- a couple’s first meeting in which something embarrassing or totally embarrassing happens. When a couple has a meet-cute, they always have a good answer to ‘So, how did you two meet?’- so when I got this sarcastic meet-cute, I was pretty thrilled. Although, slamming into a guy and having him help you pick up your feminine sanitary products…well that’s really a meet-cute.

It’s not just in this book. Lauren Layne has a real penchant for meet-cute’s. In the sequel to this book Broken, I think there’s a reference to suicidal tendencies and giving the ‘circus-freak’ a dollar to see his scars. In her book, Only For You, there’s the mother of all meet-cute’s- the love interest mistakes her for a …gasp! hooker! I’m still on the fence as to whether I like meet-cute’s or not…

One thing that Lauren Layne was not able to convince me of is Happy Ever Afters. I still don’t like HEA’s and I mean no offense, but I really dislike the huge demonstrative ones in which you make a significant change to your lifestyle and then run half-way across the country to show your significant other how serious you are in your desire to get back together to your significant other. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been in a relationship, but I really don’t see the appeal.

The beginning and ending may seem a little formulatic but I can promise you the in-between is completely organic and beautiful. Lauren Layne is brillinant with her double- PoV . This is  made even more impressive by the fact that one character is male! The plot actually moves along (unlike most NA’s) and the dialogue is so witty and cute it’s…lovely.

Broken (Redemption, #1)

This is the case for the sequel to this book, Broken even though it’s more angsty. It’s also true for her The Best Mistake series which deals with older and more mature characters (and scenes). I wasn’t able to properly enjoy her Sex, Love and Stiletto series because I highy doubt journalists are able to lead lifestyles like ones shown in the books-which reminds me, that a film-buff friend was unexcited by the lack of filmi-passion in this book.

That hardly makes Lauren Layne’s books formulatic or even similar to each other. One thing I really enjoy about her books is how each romance is so different, but still so beautiful. I recently wrote to her

Me:

Not really a question, but after reading Isn’t She Lovely, Broken, Only for You and Made for you- how is it possible that you’re able to write such different romances and that they’re all so great?

Her reply:
Aww, so sweet of you to say this! Especially since it’s something I worry about as an author … there’s always this sense that the “superfans” of one book won’t like the next one because it’s so different. Isn’t She Lovely and Broken were especially like this for me!! Isn’t She Lovely was snarky and funny, Broken was a bit more gritty. Was worried I’d alienate my ISL fans!
So it’s lovely that you wrote this message 🙂 Mostly it comes down to trying to do your best by the book … writing the character/story as it comes into your head without deliberately trying to make it emotional/sad/funny, whatever.

Isn’t that inspiring? Isn’t she lovely?

The Lion Hunters: Why Isn’t This Series More Popular?

Mention the name Elizabeth Wein and if you’re familiar with young adult books, you’ll probably think of Code Name: Verity . I’m not saying that’s a problem, because I fully agree that it’s an amazing book. With it’s amazing friendship, unreliable narrators, action packed plot and stunning dialogue, how could I say otherwise? In fact it’s even on my list of Top 5 YA  Must-Reads (Even If You’re an Adult). It’s sequel, Rose Under Fire is pretty well known too.

But how many of you have hard of the Lion Hunter’s series? <scans the room for hands up> How many of you have actually read them? <watches hands drop one by one> Yes, I thought so.

The Winter Prince (The Lion Hunters, #1)A Coalition of Lions (The Lion Hunters, #2)The Sunbird (The Lion Hunters, #3)The Lion Hunter (The Lion Hunters, #4)The Empty Kingdom (The Lion Hunters, #5)

I can admit it, the covers aren’t as gorgeous as the Cod Name: Verity ones but that’s really no excuse. The series is set in the Medieval Period, with the first book set in the mighty Great Britain and the other four set in rich and exotic African Aksum and Hiymar. Elizabeth Wein’s distinctive, almost lyrical (without venturing into the purple-prose zone) writing brings the world to life with it’s gritty details of dirty streets, brutal violence, and familial jealousy alongside opulent palaces, egoistic princes and the deep loyalty between family. Why wouldn’t you want to read the series?

As if that isn’t enough, Elizabeth Wein has a horde of strong, three-dimensional, compelling characters (both male and female in this series) narrating their plots. When you read these books, you’ll find yourself enthralled by the twisting plots of intrigue and trying to puzzle out the motives of each of the characters. Full of spies, conspiracies and snarled politics, in this series it’s important to remember that no one’s good and no one’s evil but everyone has their own agenda.

Go ahead. Read this series if you want historical fiction which keeps you eyes glued to the pages and your fingers frantically turning. Read the series if you want to read a dark young adult book with unique and brilliant characters that will leave you breathless. Read the series if you want to be transported into a hauntingly beautiful Medieval world. Even if you don’t, read it anyways. You’re not likely to regret it.

Reading order: (covers above)

  1. The Winter Prince
  2. Coalition of Lions
  3. The Sunbird
  4. The Lion Hunter
  5. The Empty Kingdom

Top 5 Realistic Fiction YA Authors

I’ve read a lot of young adult books. Inevitably, I guess that means I’ve read a lot of realistic young adult fiction. This genre holds a special place in my heart because the characters in the (good) books of this genre are so realistic. It’ very easy (sometimes it seems too easy) to put yourself in their shoes, to understand their ambitions and be totally crippled by their losses. These term ‘The Feels’ was coined for these kind of books.

I love these books but a huge part (if not all) of the enjoyability is attributed to the authors who write such amazing books. Here’s my list of the top 5 realistic fiction authors. They write characters which make you fall in love their dialogue will make you laugh, their stories will make you cry and the books themselves will drive you crazy in the best way possible.

1.)

Author: Jenny Han

Books: 

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)Burn for Burn (Burn for Burn, #1)The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)

Blog: www.dearjennyhan.com
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/jennyhan


2.)

Author: Melina Marchetta

Books: 

On the Jellicoe RoadSaving FrancescaThe Piper's Son

Blog: melinamarchetta.wordpress.com
Twitter:https://twitter.com/MMarchetta
My Reviews: On the Jellicoe Road


3.)

Author: Ally Carter

Books:

Heist Society (Heist Society, #1)I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls, #1)

Blog: allycarter.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/OfficiallyAlly


4.)

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Books: 

Eleanor & ParkFangirl

Blog: www.rainbowrowell.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rainbowrowell
My Reviews:
Rainbow Rowell: Rant or Rave About


5.)

Author: Gayle Foreman

Books: 

Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)

Blog: gayleforman.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gayleforman
My Reviews:
Just One Day/Just One Year


So here are my Top 5 Realistic YA fiction authors. No they’re not in any specific order. Do you think I missed anyone out? Who would you include on this list? Who would you leave out?

Corrine Jackson: Crazy…But in A Good Way or Bad Way?

Corrine JacksonAuthor: Corrine Jackson
Where From: Haxton, Colorado, Untied States of America
Books: If I Lie, The Sense Thieves trilogy (TouchedPushed and Ignited)
Awards: If I Lie is on the ALA Rainbow List, 2014

If I Lie:

If I Lie

Blurb: Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise

My thoughts:
This book was a very emotional one. Not only is it a story about bearing burdens, guilt and the knowledge of the real truth. It’s about facing shame, anger and the fact that you may have damaged a bond that was supposed to be unbreakable Quinn lives in a town where practically everybody is either military or related to someone in the military. They know what it’s like to be in a war-zone in constant peril and wonder if your life at home remains waiting for you. And they can’t tolerate the people who can’t cope with a husband or boyfriend who’s away. So when Quinn cheats on her boyfriend and a picture of it goes viral, she is ostracized by the town who is aghast that she was disloyal to the ‘town hero’. But she didn’t cheat on Carey. Not really. However, she can’t bring herself to tell anyone that she didn’t because if she did that, she would have to reveal the fact that Carey was gay. And there’s not a lot of respect in the military for gay people.

At the same time, she has to cope with the abandonment . She caught her mother cheating on her father and told him.  Her mother dropped her off at her grandparents house and left. The book If I Lie is about torn families, friendship, and the army; it is also a story about hope and perseverance and the ability to find strength and courage even in the darkest of times.

Sense Thieves trilogy: Touched, Pushed, Ignited

Summary: Remy O’Malley is different. She can heal people. You would think that would be great except every time she heals someone, she absorbs their injuries into her own body. Only when she arrives Blackwell Falls does she realize just what she is. She’s hunted –  both by Healers and Protectors, because she’s half of both and she’s got  the best of both worlds. She needs to be exceptionally strong –  both physically and mentally – if she wants to acquire a stable life. This is her story.

My thoughts:

Touched: I liked the first book even though at points it resembled a fanfic with huge parts of it based on angst and abuse (trust me, fanfiction frequently overoses on angst, trauma, abuse and all sorts of clichés). But Remy was a paradoxical character who while physically weak had a great deal of mental strength. The take on healing abilities was new and innovative and the romance was relatively simple and uncomplicated. As was the enemy. On the whole this book was imaginative, simple and sweet in certain places.

Pushed: Boy,was I surprised by the next book- in a good way. It lightened up on the angst and self-pity but the plot became increasingly more complex. A love triangle was introduced. But don’t worry; it was the good kind. Remy and Gabe develop feelings for each other in a gradual way, bonded by a shared loss.  At the end of the book it was not at all obvious who she was going to choose because both men (yes men, not boys) had their strong points but didn’t fall into the cliché good guy and bad boy roles. The enemy in this one was more complex as well. You don’t find out who he is until the middle of the book and even then it’s possible to say that he is more passionate about his cause than evil. But you won’t walk away from the book thinking that.

Ignited: As far as conclusions to trilogies go, I think this is as good as it gets. This book was my favourite one. The ending was surprising but not completely unexpected if you paid attention to the foreshadowing in the previous books. In this book Remy struggles to keep her mental strength as tense arguments arise, the stakes change and awkward moments abound amongst her allies. At the same time she has to keep herself focused on defeating the enemy from the second book (I’d tell you who he is, but it would spoil the second book beyond reading) and detangling herself from her complicated love-life. At the end of the book, we don’t get a perfect ending. But it comes pretty damn close.

So if Corrine Jackson is crazy, it’s definitely in a good way. I’m planning to read her next book as soon as it comes out.

Cassendra Clare Has a New Series?

It’s been exactly five minutes since I ended my Cassendra Clare reading spree. Over the last week, I have read the last two books of both the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices. And now, I’m kind of at a loss. It’s a sad but true fact that the Mortal Instruments series with all it’s loose ends has now been officially tied up with the stunning and epic conclusion: The City of Heavenly Fire. Which, if you haven’t read yet, you need to read as soon as possible. I can promise you it was phenomenal and at the end, there were less dead characters than I expected. (Incidentally that’s one thing I really like about Cassendra Clare’s books- few people die.  Authors like Rick Riordan, Veronica Roth and Suzanne Collins should take a few pointers. It would probably make for a set of happier fandoms.) 

So what are we going to do now that the Mortal Instruments series is over? Re-read the books, fangirl about how great it was, eagerly anticipate the movies (just so we can criticize them for cutting all the important parts out) and lament the fact that it’s completely over? Well yes, of course we are. But if you haven’t read the The Infernal Devices series yet, you have that fall back. I know a lot of people who actually prefer the Infernal Devices series, which is kind of a prequel to the Mortal Instruments. We get the backstories of a bunch of characters who played important roles in the series. The Infernal Devices is  set in Victorian England, the heroine is a bookworm in love with two boys who are the best of friends but so different, there are strong female characters not limited to the MC and there is an evil psychopath hell-bent on killing all the shadowunter in the world because of his twisted sense of ‘justice’. What’s not to love?

Or you could read the Bane Chronicles, a series of short stories based on Magnus’s extraordinarily long and exciting life which is tantalizingly hinted at in the Mortal Instruments. You can see who Magnus was before he got involved with Alec and after he met Will. This series of mini-stories was co-written by Cassendra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson- all spectacular authors. And wanna know something cool? When you put all the books together, you get one big picture. I think Magnus would approve.
What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything (The Bane Chronicles, #8) by Cassandra Clare The Course of True Love  and First Dates  (The Bane Chronicles, #10) by Cassandra Clare The Rise of the Hotel Dumort (The Bane Chronicles, #5) by Cassandra Clare Vampires, Scones, and Edmund Herondale (The Bane Chronicles, #3) by Cassandra Clare Saving Raphael Santiago (The Bane Chronicles, #6) by Cassandra Clare 
The Runaway Queen (The Bane Chronicles, #2) by Cassandra Clare What Really Happened in Peru (The Bane Chronicles, #1) by Cassandra Clare The Last Stand of the New York Institute (The Bane Chronicles, #9) by Cassandra Clare The Fall of the Hotel Dumort (The Bane Chronicles, #7) by Cassandra Clare The Midnight Heir (The Bane Chronicles, #4) by Cassandra Clare

But if you’re the unlucky and misfortunate sort who’s already read through all three series, but is still desperate for a Shadowhunter fix, you’re not as unlucky as you could be. In March 2015 (I know, that seem so far away), Cassendra Clare is releasing a new series called the Dark Artifices. The first book is going to be called Lady Midnight and it will feature Emma Carstairs (we were introduced to her in The City of Heavenly Fire). A cover hasn’t been released as of yet but a description has. Here it is:

Los Angeles, 2012. It’s been five years since the events of the Mortal Instruments when Nephilim stood poised on the brink of oblivion and Shadowhunter Emma Carstairs lost her parents. After the blood and violence she witnessed as a child, Emma has dedicated her life to the eradication of demons and being the best, fastest and deadliest Shadowhunter since Jace Lightwood. Raised in the Los Angeles Institute, Emma is paired as a parabatai with her best friend, Julian. As Emma hunts those who caused the death of her parents, the trail they’re following leads back to those they’ve always been taught to trust. At the same time, Emma is falling in love with Julian — her closest friend and, because he is her parabatai, the one person in the world she’s absolutely forbidden by Shadowhunter Law to love. Set against the glittering backdrop of present-day Los Angeles, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches from the warlock-run nightclubs of the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica.

Fans of Cassendra Clare and her world of Shadowhunter will doubtlessly be ecstatic to hear this amazing piece of news but at the same time there are some people who are…not. “Isn’t enough, enough?”, they wonder. “Hasn’t Cassendra Clare already stretched this world as far as it can go? Doesn’t she have any originality? How long is she going to exploit this world over and over again to earn money?”. Yes these are actual questions being asked. And maybe it is valid. Cassendra Clare has written three series and nineteen books based on Shadowhunters. Isn’t it time for her to give it up?

No. It’s not. I like the fact that there are so many books about this world. It makes it feel more real, you know? In fact, I really admire Cassendra Clare for getting so into the world and the backstories of all the characters. And I’m so glad she decided to share it with us fans in the form of books. I get kind of annoyed when authors develop backstories for the characters and histories for the world and share it on the news somewhere. Most of us don’t see those articles and the few who do are… No, I’m not even going there.

As for originality, I think that Cassendra Clare has it in spades. The Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices are set in very different settings, with very different characters (although Jace and Will are kind of similar…) and very different plots. If there’s anything that Cassendra lacks, it is definitely not originality.

So, personally I am very excited about The Dark Artifices. I will definitely read Lady Midnight as soon as it comes out. In fact, I’ve already put it on my to-read list on goodreads.com. You should too.

Rainbow Rowell: Rave About or Rant About?

Name: Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow RowellOrigin: Nebraska, USA
Books: Attachments, Eleanor and Park, Fangirl
Recognition:In 2013 Rowell published two young adult novels: Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Both were chosen by The New York Times as being some of the best young adult fiction of the year. Eleanor & Park was also chosen by Amazon as one of the 10 best books of 2013 and as Goodreads’ best young adult fiction of the year.Fangirl was chosen for the tumblr reblog book club.
Her Blog:http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/

 

First of all, I want to fangirl a bit about her name because is just so awesome! The first time I heard about it, I thought it was a pseudonym because it matches her writing so perfectly. It’s quirky, alliterary (probably not a real word since I’m getting that ugly red squiggle underneath) and the ‘Rainbow’ part adds a touch of irony- very nice.

So what is this going to be, a rant or a rave? If you haven’t already guessed, it’s definitely going to be a rave. Rainbow Rowell convinced me of something that, a year ago, I would have thought was impossible. She (gasp!) got me into contemporary young adult. Let me tell you- this was a major feat. In fact it’s practically award worthy because I had sworn never, ever, ever to read contemporary. About a year ago, I was just getting into the whole young adult thing. I had read a handful of YA contemporary and they all turned out to be bad. Uninspired, bland, shallow. Really bad. Then along came Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell like a dragon hell bent on encouraging me not to misjudge it’s entire race.  The blurb was cute and catchy. The title even more so. Especially since I had spent two whole years reading and writing huge (and I mean HUGE) amounts of fanfiction. Obviously, I fell in love with the book. The rest, as they say, is history. Actually no, it’s not- if you take a look at my blog, you’ll notice that nowadays I review quite a few contemporary young adult books. I would have missed a lot  good books (This Song Will Save Your Life , Wanderlove , 45 Pounds: More or Less , Just One Day) if I never got into this genre. So, I owe Rainbow Rowell a lot. A lot more than I can say thankyou for.

And what exactly makes her so awesome? I think it’s a combination of things. First and foremost is her characters. They’re quirky, interesting, unique, surprisingly profound but at the heart of it still realistic and well rounded. Eleanor deals with bullying and self-image issues at school and her home life is a train wreck waiting to happen. But at the same time, she never loses her sense of humour or her individuality. Cath is socially awkward. The thought of actually interacting in person with real people turns her into a nervous mess but she’s a gifted writer. She has the talent to write amazing stories which have major fan-followings Unfortunately for her, her writing teacher doesn’t believe in fanfiction and fanfiction is what Cath writes best. But Cath is the kind of character who grows as the story progresses. She moves (or maybe shuffles is a more appropriate word for it) out of her comfort zone and shell and actually forges new relationships.

Which brings me to the next thing I love about Rainbow Rowell’s books: The Relationships. How does an author create such different characters? More importantly, how does she make such different characters get along? Most importantly, how does she make their relationships so…memorable and perfect? I have no idea but let me give you an example. Reagen is a girl who’s larger than life. She’s prone to mockery and is excessively blunt. How does she even get along with (much less become BFF’s) with quiet, nervous, head-in-fanfiction Cath? I don’t know how it does, but it works. Rainbow Rowell proves that in fiction at least, the best pairs are the ones with the least in common.

How else would you explain Eleanor and Park? Eleanor is all red hair and wrong clothes. It’s impossible not to stare at her and the force of her personality (and her size) makes everyone seem duller and flatter. She comes from a broken home…quite literally, her home is broken. Her parents, both not so great to begin with, are divorced. Her mom remarried a man who loves to drink and loves to bully…and bully he does, but he does so much more (I can’t say much more without giving major spoilers). Park, on the other hand, has a wonderful home life. His Dad met his Mom in Korea, married her and brought her home. They still kiss and hold each other like they haven’t seen each other in months. They are simply adorable. Park himself is popular enough and respected enough at school but sometimes he feels like he doesn’t fit in. And that’s where the tagline for the book comes in: Two misfits. One extraordinary love.

But the real oomph and glamour of the book doesn’t come from the characters and their relationships (although we’ve already mentioned that they’re much better than great).  What makes these books so spectacular is the writing. Yes, the writing.

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

“I…” – her voice nearly disappeared – “think I live for you.”
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
“I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. “Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath. That’s probably why I’m so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we’re apart is think about you, and all I do when we’re together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I’m so out of control, I can’t help myself. I’m not even mine anymore, I’m yours, and what if you decide that you don’t want me? How could you want me like I want you?”
He was quiet. He wanted everything she’d just said to be the last thing he heard. He wanted to fall asleep with ‘I want you’ in his ears.”
Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Just… isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying’?”
“It sets a dangerous precedent.”
“For avoiding pain?”
“For avoiding life.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Rainbow Rowell’s writing is so unabashedly sweet and profound (but not in a in-your-face way). Sometimes just reading quotes from her books is enough to make me catch my breath, sigh and let loose a few tears. I chose a few of them but these are just the tip of the iceberg. On a scale from 1 to 5, her quotes are a ten on quotability. For some more of them, click on the link here (it’ll take you to goodreads). Better yet, read the books.

   

 

 

 

 

 

They might not be pretty, but seriously (in this case, at least), don’t judge a book by it’s cover.