Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Throwback DVD Review: Felicity

Felicity is one of those shows I missed entirely when it was on, so here I am over 10 years later catching up. I was in college when it first aired, and I hardly watched TV. I mentioned this once to a guy in my dorm, something to the effect of not having turned my TV on in a week, and he looked at me with sincere incredulity: then what do you do?

Being a huge J.J. Abrams fan (Lost, Fringe, Super 8, the Star Trek reboot) I saw Felicity is available on Netflix streaming and figured I could recapture my lost TV years. Last year I devoured Gilmore Girls - all 7 seasons - which I also missed when I apparently had a more active social life.

So, I'll be writing a series of short recaps, as well as related twitter updates. If you like the Felicity, please chime in with your thoughts!

Here's Forever Young Adult's Highly Scientific Analysis of the relationships on Felicity if you want to know more.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My 10 Favorite Books Read in 2011

I read over 50 books this year (the most ever for me!) mainly from the Young Adult category, and thought I'd break down my favorites (Note: not all the books from my list were published in 2011). I've written reviews on my blog for each one if you're interested in more detailed thoughts - check the archives in the side bar.

Here are my top 10 reads for 2011: 


by Jessi Kirby
This is a solid contemporary novel about loss, love, new beginnings and the beach. I almost listed Anna and the French Kiss here, which is equally as good. Tough decision, but Moonglass surprised me by going deeper than I expected.

9. & 8.

White Cat (Curse Workers, #1)

and the sequal:

Red Glove (Curse Workers, #2)

by Holly Black
What sold me is the audio version read by Jesse Eisenberg - he brings the supernatural crime family to life. This is the mob if the mob had mystical abilities. It's frightening!

Revolution Revolution

by Jennifer Donnelly
A beautifully written mesh of contemporary and historical. It's dark and gritty but utltimately hopeful.

Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy, #1)

by Keirsten White
It's so much fun when a heroine can run amok in a world of supernatural creatures and not take herself too seriously. Her best friend is a mermaid and she dreams of having a locker in a real high school. More paranormal YA needs to be funny like this series.

by April Lindner
A modern re-telling of Jane Eyre. Engaging and heartbreaking.

And Then Things Fall Apart

by Arlaina Tibensky
Hilarious, quirky and quick-paced, this ties in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar in refreshing and amusing ways.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

by John Green and David Levithan
Two Will Graysons meet in an unlikely circumstance and change each other forever. And also there's a big gay musical. And by gay I mean actually gay, produced by one of YAs most memorable characters Tiny Cooper. Hold Me Closer, the story of love by Tiny Cooper. OMG. Hilarious.

Paper Towns

by John Green
I can hardly believe just a year ago I'd never read a John Green novel. Now I've read four. Paper Towns was my first and by default favorite. I adore the supporting characters and love the interweaving of crass high schoolers grappling with existential questions and taking impromtou road trips.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1)

by Laini Taylor
This is my favorite from 2011. I felt immediately transported into Karou's lush world and ate up every last morsel of this story. This is one YA trilogy I'm thrilled to continue reading.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green

Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Authors: David Levithan and John Green
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is literally about two guys named Will Grayson whose lives intersect one day and calamity ensues. I could leave it at that, or just say, "John Green wrote this so read it!" but given this is a book review you probably want to know more.

The first Will Grayson attends school in affluent Evanston, IL, just north of Chicago. He used to be with the in-crowd until he wrote an editorial to the paper to defend a gay classmate; his perceived mistake being that he signed his name instead of remaining anonymous. Now, his only friend consists of said gay classmate - Tiny - a 6 and half foot tall lumbering jock who sings constantly and has a new crush every week. Will meets a few other friends from the Gay Straight Alliance, including Jane, who he thinks he might like, kinda sorta, maybe but not really. The second Will Grayson is even more ostracised; he's a depressed loner who also lives in a fairly affluent Chicago suburb (Naperville - the next city over from me), but his single mom barely scrapes by. He hates everyone including himself. His only solace is an online relationship with Isaac, who he's never met. He's Will's only real friend besides a sarcastic goth girl from school. Isaac is his secret.

Each chapter alternates between the Wills. It's not until a third of the way in that the two cross paths. Evanston Will can't get into a concert with his friends (he tries a fake ID which says he's 20, not 21) so he wanders the shops across the street, while Naperville Will drives to Chicago to meet Isaac in the same area. The meeting with Isaac does not go as planned, and the Wills encounter each other in a very confusing exchange - if you can only imagine meeting someone randomly with your same name. Each of them come to believe their meeting was somehow fated, and the two become unlikely allies.

Of course Tiny involves himself in both Wills' relationship issues. Tiny wants to fix everyone, like it's his mission. His hopeful nature is encouraging even though Tiny has issues to work through himself. All of the relationships evolve in unexpected ways, down to the kids and their parents, which feels refreshingly realistic.

Tiny's other passion, besides fixing people, is a musical written and directed by himself about himself. At first it's the life story of Tiny Cooper, until he realizes it needs a more outward focus. He then changes it to Hold Me Closer (Tiny Cooper - a play on the song Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dancer)- a musical about love. The songs are hilarious but the story itself is rather sentimental. Evanston Will Grayson is convinced it will fail, and tries to protect Tiny from the scathing judgement of students at school. But Tiny isn't one to be held back. The transformation of Tiny's dream into a real stage production feels like rooting for the underdog with a satisfying conclusion.

This book takes a genuine look at how complex relationships are without sacrificing enjoyable storytelling. There are so many great lines and the sentiment behind it is even better. It's one of my favorite reads of 2011.

Monday, December 19, 2011

YA Lit article on popculturegeek.com

I have a friend who puts together a pretty cool site called popculturegeek.com - I can confirm he's a legit pop culture geek because he wrote and published a survival guide to San Diego Comic Con. If you ever plan to venture into that crazy spectacle definitely read his book first! (There's a print and e-book version)

Anyway, he's graciously let me start infiltrating his comic and movie focused site with my penchant for YA Lit. I wrote a little piece about dystopian YA books - specifically Legend by Marie Lu, Ashes by Ilsa Bick and Divergent by Veronica Roth. Take a look and comment if you want!

I'll be writing more for the site in the coming months, covering movies, possibly video games and whatever else is thrown my way.

You can follow popculturegeek on twitter which features a cosplay of the day (that's fans dressing in costume at events - you like like dudes in Wookie costumes, slave Leias and pretty much any comic, video game, movie or TV character you can think of) along with links to reviews, etc.

Sharing the love!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: 2010

I heard so many great reviews about Anna and the French Kiss, and after passing it  in the bookstore figuring it was a little too teen romance for my taste, I finally gave in after seeing Stephanie Perkins in person talk about writing. This book is an example of how fantastic contemporary YA fiction can be. It's a love story, but it's chiefly about friendship, which I am totally a sucker for. Because while you can have an epic love story with an undead demi-god who happens to eschew the powers of immortality to fall for a plucky high school girl, sometimes it's nice to read a story about characters who seem like actual people and their struggle to figure out whether they fit into Friends or More.

Anna's father decides to send her to boarding school in Paris to show off his newly-found wealth as a bestselling author (he's described as very Nicholas Sparks-like). Nevermind that it's Anna's senior year and she doesn't know a lick of French. She's devastated to leave behind her after school job at a movie theatre, her best friend, and a burgeoning crush. The second she arrives, she feels out of place, knowing she isn't from the same wealthy stock as most of the other students. Thankfully, a group of friends befriend Anna in a John Green Looking for Alaska fashion, and she gains confidence in her new environment. Slowly.

Etienne St. Clair is the boy that captures Anna's heart - but he has a girlfriend. Also, half the girls in school are in love with him, so Anna spends most of her time trying to ignore any feelings for him, while at the same time, St. Clair seems to be constantly nearby, offering her tours of the city and tagging along with her to movie houses in Paris. They become friends but there's constant tension. The author knows how to write an awkward moment, and it's believeable from both perspectives. Meanwhile, the rest Anna's new friends have their own issues with each other that affect the group as a whole. Family dynamics play into each of their lives; St. Clair's mother is undergoing cancer treatments back in California, and Anna is concerned her little brother is mad that she left him when they were once so close.

Besides all the friendship drama, the characters are frequently funny. Their dynamic together feels genuine, particularly the slowly building friendships with numerous misunderstandings. It's a great companion novel to Looking for Alaska, with a lighter tone. John Green is one of my favorites, so I make the comparison as a compliment. Anna and the French Kiss is such an enjoyable read, I definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Gets a Movie Deal!

Super cool news! Daughter of Smoke and Bone *may* be made into a movie! EW.com Shelf Life reported the movie rights were sold to Universal. BUT, these kinds of deals happen all the time, it doesn't mean the movie will for sure get made, or it might take a long time. Movie studios are looking for the next big YA crossover after Twilight made so much money, and The Hunger Games, which isn't even out yet, is speculated to make a lot of cash (and it should!).

The Hunger Games is a great series, so I hope it translates well on the screen. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of my favorites of 2011, it's a very inventive, magical story that's different than what's out there for teen movies. It's fantasy and contemporary, kind of like Harry Potter's mix of muggle and magic worlds.

I wish it well!

What other books do you wish would be made into a movie?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2011

This book is a total treat. I felt instantly transported to a world that is both seemingly mystical (Prague) and actual fantasy (another realm through a secret door). Right away I connected with Karou, whose name means hope in the language of the Chimaera. Her blue hair and sketchbooks filled with motley characters seem likeable and intriguing. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of chapter 10 that summarizes Karou's life:

In general, Karou managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she was a 17-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand girl to an inhuman creature who was the closest thing she had to family. For the most part, she'd found that there was time enough in a week for both lives. If not every week, at least most. This did not turn out to be one of those weeks...

I found a lot of parallels in The Daughter of Smoke and Bone to another favorite read from earlier this year, Kiersten White's Paranormalcy. The books are definitely different, but share many basic elements: both girls are parentless and raised by a hodge-podge of mystical/supernatural beings. Both Karou and Evie consider themselves normal, but as the story progresses, they discover their identity is something other than what they believed. Each of their worlds are threatened by a larger war, and both must realize that chief aspects to their world were hidden to them by those they trusted. Also, Karou and Evie have arrogant ex-boyfriends they are trying to get over at the beginning of the story, and each encounter a beautiful but most likely forbidden guy they have a desnity attached to.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone ties together real life locales across the globe with a larger world of angels and chimaera, who Karou must determine whose allegiance she belongs to. The story felt epic but somehow believable. Karou is eccentric and knows it, it's how she's survived in the real world as long as she has. And she has a great best friend. This is such an imaginative story filled with great one liners and captivating scenes. I highly recommend it if you're looking for a fresh contemporary fantasy.