Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Holly Black
Young Adult Paranormal
Published: September 2013

image: Goodreads
Who else other than an established author like Holly Black can manage to get a young adult vampire book published in 2013? While vampires will continue to morph in new forms, the genre seems to excel most when it returns to darker roots. The vampires in Coldtown are not sparkly, swoon-worthy heroes. They're ugly, ravaging beasts.

The book opens with a memorable, stage-setting scene. Tana wakes up in a bathtub, in the house where she partied the previous night. Outside the bathroom door, corpses. An entire house full of them.

Tana survives the massacre, along with her newly infected ex-boyfriend, and another boy who is probably a vampire and definitely trouble. Tana and the boys set out for the nearest Coldtown, the barricaded cities where vampires (and others who were not fortunate to get out in time), are quarantined from the rest of the population. There the guys will be safe and not hunted down by the authorities, and blamed for the massacre. Tana plans to get out through a sketchy plan involving turning in a vampire for bounty and obtaining a marker to be released back out of the Coldtown.

What takes this story a level above what it could have been is a rich backstory involving Tana's mother who had been bitten. Her memories flash back to her mother chained in the basement, trying to wait out the infection, which is technically possible if the newly infected does not feed. The story vacillates between past memories and the current trek to Coldtown. The dynamic between Tana and her ex is interesting, again taking this beyond a typical love triangle to more of an oddball survival story. Another layer that adds interest is how social media predictably skews the image of vampires into cool, intentional social outcasts. The vampires stream 24-hour dance parties, and flocks of people done with mundane living try to make into Coldtowns, oblivious that the reality is not what has been presented.

Tana is not a typical do-gooder main character. Her past relationships are flawed, her current relationships difficult. She is the type you want to wrap in a warm blanket and talk some sense into. Instead, Tana forges headfirst into a bleak world destined to hurt her. To save people she has complicated relationships with. It's not a sentimental take on vampires, but there is hope and some real fun in this story. If you've longed for a little more Ann Rice in your YA vampire fic, here you go.

Friday, December 27, 2013

2014 New Titles and Reading Challenges

Photo: theothernate via Flickr
Looking for what's new to read in 2014? Looking for a good reading challenge?

Stacked: 2014 Contemporary YA Books to Get On Your Radar
Let me just say, I want to tag almost all of these to Goodreads.

2014 Debut Author Challenge
Sign up at the blog above to officially network with other readers and bloggers whose goal is to read 12 books by debut authors in the new year. This blog challenge is specifically geared toward middle grade, YA, and I see they added New Adult (college age).

Bookish blog TBR Pile (To Be Read) Reading Challenge
This one is specifically for books NOT published in 2014, so all of you who tend to pile up books, this is for you--and me! I'm super psyched for this one. On the 20th of each month, Bookish will host a wrap-up post where you can link your reviews and network with other bloggers. Fun!

Latinas in Kidlit reading challenge!
Add diversity to your reading list.
Back to the Classics 2014 Challenge
Brush up on your classics--with helpful category suggestions. Also, prizes!

Even Pinterest has a collection of reading challenges.

Not interested in a blog challenge? Here's a post on YA Highway with lots of links featuring books with diverse characters and settings.

Here are a few lists on Goodreads of books coming out in 2014:
Which books do you have on your list for the new year? Anything you can't wait to read?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Photo: theothernate via Flickr (used w/permission)

Merry Christmas 
Happy Holidays!

May you enjoy many good books this holiday and into the new year!


Monday, December 16, 2013

Favorite Reads 2013!

It's that time of year! I love to see which books topped people's lists. I caught up on a lot of books from previous years, so I don't have too many 2013 books as my favorites.

I started the year with non-fiction (1776 by David McCollough), followed by some adult-market historicals. In spring, I read quite a few romances thanks to prepping for RWA Nationals and then all the freebies from the conference. Standouts include Courtney Milan (historical), Candis Terry (contemporary), Shawntelle Madison (paranormal).

Favorite Reads published 2013:
Eleanor & Park Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA). Two awkward, hurting teens support each other in this slow-burn romance.
Just One Day (Just One Day, #1) Just One Day by Gayle Forman (YA). A trip to the UK, one glorious day of love, and a year of coping with losing that love. Heartbreaking but completely immersive.

Second Chance Summer Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson (YA): In the vein of Sarah Dessen, a summer love story with strong threads of family and self-actualization. This is a book that stuck with me.

Favorite Reads: read in 2013, published a previous year:

Imaginary Girls Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma (YA). A haunting of devotion between sisters and a mysterious lake.

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2) Where She Went by Gayle Forman (YA). A girl looks in on her life while in a coma. Like the previous book, it's contemporary with hints of other-worldly factors.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA): Incredible voice, moving without being overly sentimental. Groundbreaking.

Thirteen Reasons Why Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (YA): A portrait of what it can look like to become suicidal. This is a really important book for the YA market.

The Princesses of Iowa The Princesses of Iowa by Molly Backes (YA): Solid contemporary YA with a main character who isn't a shy, nice girl. It's refreshing. Also nuanced and funny.

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1) Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan (YA): A gothic mystery light enough to delight but still managed to be creepy.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kahlin (memoir, humor). Mindy Kahling is my new pop culture hero. You need to watch The Mindy Project, it's so funny!

My One and Only My One and Only by Kristan  Higgins (contemporary romance): I read at least 4 Kristan Higgins books this year after loving this one. Small town, quirky families, plucky heroines. She is one of my go-to writers for light romance.

What are your favorite reads from the year?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What's Up Wednesday


What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop with other writers. Click here to see this week's list of particpating blogs!
What I'm Reading
Still plugging away at Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I'm spending free time writing so I'm not doing much reading at all. Once Friday hits, I'm taking a mini break and catching up on a bunch of books I've gotten for cheap from BookBub. It's both wonderful to have ebook deals emailed directly every day, and also dangerous because, well e-book deals are emailed to you EVERY DAY.
What I'm Writing
I'm revising my summer project (which I wrote thanks to many of your encouragement during Ready. Set. Write!) with hopes that I can get it in good enough shape to enter into RWA's Golden Heart contest (deadline just days away, thus the not reading much part). I already entered a different manuscript, but this project is more fresh in my mind and I really, really want to give it a chance in the GH! Hopefully, fingers crossed, this will be my last year eligible since the award is for writers who are not under a publishing contract. I will gladly become ineligible next year if it means one of my manuscripts goes under contract with a publisher!
The other national award RWA has is the Rita for published novels, which is open to any author, regardless of RWA affiliation. Sadly, the YA category is canceled in 2014 due to lack of entries. Say what now? Lack of entries for YA?! Crazy, right given how huge the category is, and how much its growing. More to the story. RWA changed the definition of what they consider a Young Adult romance, which well-intentioned or not, has caused the perception that many writers' YA romances no longer qualify since their stories involve other plot elements. I personally think the bulk of this is a misunderstanding. RWA's redefining of acceptable YA for their awards does limit some previously eligible entries, though I think people are perhaps interpreting the new definition too strictly. In addition to the defintion change, RWA also changed their method for determining how many entries are needed in order keep a category in the contest. This year you needed like 10 times more individual entries to keep the category. It was a perfect storm of changes that resulted in cancelation.
A bunch of us were on fire about this on twitter and many of us have brought our heartfelt concerns to the RWA board. I chose RWA over SCBWI, mostly due to its local resources, and I want to continue with the organization. I think RWA as a whole just needs a bit more education on what YA is and what it isn't. The perception should not be that YA romance is ONLY romance, given how essential coming of age and family matters are in YA lit. I do understand a romance-focused contest should require books that are romance focused, but a slight tweak to the wording will most likely clear up the confusion this has created.
Uh, so after all that, I'm still shooting for the Golden Heart, and I really hope the Rita is around for YA by the time I am eligible to enter a book.
What Inspires Me
Christmas! I took a break last weekend and baked with my sister-in-law and her mom. Let's just say I am now an expert at spritz cookies using a finnicky cookie press. I made shortbread, and my family dipped dozens of pretzels in chocolate and wrapped them up all cute. I don't have a pic, but I did make this (right) for a craft project gingerbread man contest at work. I turned mine into Princess Leia. Those are pipe cleaner buns. 
What Else I've Been Up To
Writing a lot, we covered that. I bought a bunch of older movies at one of those used CD/games/movies store. We don't have an extensive DVD collection at home so there are a lot of older movies I've been wanting to rewatch and wished we had. I even had a coupon for the used store, which made it even cheaper $3.33 a movie before the coupon. I need to make sure I don't crazy if I go back.
I have a half decorated Christmas tree due to issues with the lights (isn't it always) and am in need of an extension cord which of course I can't find due to having shifted everything in our downstairs when the floors were done and the water damage fixed. My husband does not get the holiday decorating thing AT ALL and I've been trying deal with this myself. The result is a tree with a strip of lights out in the middle and the boxes just sitting around. Although the cat likes his little shady nook. :)
What's up with your Wednesday?