Kristin Cashore

RTW: Best Book ‘o the Month

by sarahenni on March 28, 2012

Welcome to another Road Trip Wednesday, a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway posts a weekly writing- or reading-related question and anyone can answer it on their own blogs.

This week’s topic is:

What was the best book you read in March?

March has been a disturbing drought in reading, as a million other things have popped up. But I was lucky enough to read one book in particular that left my brain whirring.

I was exceedingly fortunate to have received a copy of the ARC (thanks, Sash!), and set about thinking I would devour Bitterblue as I had Cashore’s other books, Graceling (to which Bitterblue is the sequel) and Fire.

But this book resists purge-style reading. It is truly different from any YA—actually make that any—book I’ve read before.

I’m going to make this post spoiler-free, so I’m sorry if it’s frustratingly vague. Let’s start with what everyone knows, the description from Goodreads:

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Even after eight years, Monsea has hardly begun to recover from having its collective mind warped by King Leck. Bitterblue herself is still struggling to deal with the death of her mother, at Leck’s hands. Though Bitterblue believes she’s doing what she can to bring Monsea back to normal, odd stories in town and strange statues, topiaries, and wall-hangings in the castle hint that Leck’s madness still taints her kingdom.

Cashore weaves an intricate story that reads almost more like a mind experiment: when you wake up from a fog to realize your mind has been toyed with, how do you determine what is real? How do you find the courage to trust it again? And words, story, history—the power of communicating among a people what happened and what is happening, of finding a common narrative—play a major role as well.

Bitterblue is confused, sad, naive, and privileged. She’s impulsive, needy, brave, and compassionate. Cashore spends more than 500 words giving Bitterblue layer upon layer of depth and growth, and still at the end she is a woman in progress. It’s a beautiful thing, something I relished especially after reading Phoebe North’s lovely post urging the propagation of more complicated, imperfect women and girls in YA.

I recently lent the book to a friend, and I’m dying for more people to read it. Because I genuinely felt, as I finished the last page (hell, I felt it even more after I read the acknowledgments) that this is a book that requires time and discussion to be truly appreciated. For this, for Graceling and Fire, and for her recent incredible post on The Hunger Games that made me strangely emotional, I’d like to thank Kristin Cashore, and urge her to please, please keep writing. She’s given me another wonderful journey.

What about you?? What was the best book you read this month?

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Most Anticipated of 2012

by sarahenni on December 30, 2011

Just so we don’t spend the ENTIRE week getting too weepy about leaving 2011 behind, today we’re all going to discuss what books we can’t wait for in 2012! Hold onto your spectacles, because 2012 is going to be JAM PACKED with books I am salivating over.

Veronica Roth’s Insurgent

May 28

I find Tris Prior to be one of the most refreshing YA characters I’ve ever read. How she struggles with fighting for what she wants versus feeling guilty for wanting it reflects a truly painful human conflict we all battle, regardless of age. Tris suffers from an inability to bullshit the world about who she is, and people don’t always take kindly to teens (and in particular young women) who live that way. The people in Tris’ world REALLY don’t take kindly to it, and I’m so eager to see where Roth takes Tris, both in the geographic world of the Divergent series and in her emotional journey.

Erin Jade Lange Butter

Date TBA

I remember reading the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement about this book, and the concept really struck me: “A boy everyone calls “Butter” is about to make Scottsdale High history. He’s going to eat himself to death live on the Internet – and everyone will watch. He announces his deadly plan to an army of peers and expects pity, insults or even indifference. Instead, he finds morbid encouragement.” And a funny thing happened with this idea. It stuck around. I kept thinking about it when there was a rash of horrible teen suicides last year. When the Hunger Games movie started discussions about teens interacting with the world through “reality” shows. I love this concept, and most of all I’m so eager to read how Lange handled these issues in her book, and see what kind of discussions it sparks.

Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue

May 1

I’ve struggled over the last two years with some YA heroines who are physically, butt-kicking strong, but who lack a nuanced emotional vulnerability. Kristin Cashore’s fantasy books feature leading ladies who assert themselves physically, and lead rich and complicated inner lives. Cashore brings each character such depth that their struggles with innate superpowers or neon monsters seem totally relatable. I can’t WAIT to see what Bitterblue has in store for us!

Stephanie Perkins Isla and the Happily Ever After

Fall 2012

With Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, Perkins has crafted two stories that are some of the best contemporary YA I’ve ever read, and I’d argue the most natural, fresh voice in that genre right now. What’s drawn me to her work, along with the perfect pacing and general quirky spirit, are the boys. These are boys. By that I mean, dudes. Guys. People that I’ve met, that I’ve known, that I’ve loved. They’re imperfect, they’re not drop-dead gorgeous, they’re awkward, they’re scared to death of the women they’re attracted to. Etienne, Cricket, and Josh are the most swoon-worthy boys in YA that I’ve ever met, and quite frankly I married one of them. It’s an absolute joy to see Perkins translate the thrills of falling in love with someone so real.

(GPOAB* included in lieu of not-released book art because he/Seth Cohen typify the type of guy that Perkins writes, and also, I think she’d approve.)

Justin Cronin’s The Twelve

August 28

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! There is no conceivable way I can wait another eight months for this book, the sequel to Cronin’s 2010 novel The Passage (pictured above because artwork for The Twelve is being shrouded in mystery and impending terror, no doubt). I loved The Passage more than I have loved a book in a very long time, because though it clocks in at an astounding 800 pages, not a scene is unnecessary, not a word misplaced. The action is tense, the characters are vibrant, the world is, in a word, angsdngfksd. Everyone called this a vampire book, but it was really more like a vampire-zombie post apocalyptic mash-up of Mad Max and 28 Days Later. I will be pre-ordering this to my Kindle and staying awake to begin reading the minute it downloads.

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristen Halbrook

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

* Gratuitous Picture of Adam Brody

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2011 in: Recommendations

by sarahenni on December 29, 2011

If you love reading (and my guess is, since you’re here, you do), you know that recommending books for others is an art. Every reader is different, so when your sister/boss/neighbor/niece asks for suggestions, a lot of thought goes into it. I find that my list of favorite books doesn’t always sync up with the list of books that I recommend most—I tend to recommend books that I think have more broad appeal, ones that I’ve seen most everyone pick up and love. So today we’re going to share the books that we’ve evangelized most for in 2011!

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This book made my “most recommended” list last year, too, and that really says something. It’s been more than a year since I read it, but Cronin’s haunting 800-page post-apocalyptic zombie-vampire cross-country journey tale still haunts me. It’s one of my favorites of all time, and I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t enjoy it.

Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore

I’m counting these as one book, because I never recommend one without the other. Cashore’s YA fantasy world has the complex world-building and medieval-style throne lust that typifies epic fantasy, but they feature strong female characters, a paranormal twist, and emotional arcs you can sink your teeth into. I loved getting lost in the stories of Katsa and Fire, and most of the people I recommended it to gave it a thumbs-up.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Though I’ve been recommending it to anyone who’d listen for years, I saw a definite uptick in interest when the Hunger Games movie started filming, most especially when the trailer came out and looked BOMB. The Hunger Games is, frankly, a book I dare anyone not to enjoy, and I’m so excited for it to blow up in March with the film!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

As soon as I started reading this book—and I woke Dr H up because I was laughing so hard—I knew I had to spread the word on the book. I’ve found it’s a great introduction to people that aren’t familiar with YA, or how the YA voice is different from the contemporary lit they’re used to reading. The combination of Green and Levithan makes for such a great balance of humor, angst, outlandish scenarios and real human stories, all in one book.

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

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5 Favorite YA Characters

by sarahenni on December 27, 2011

Today we’re sharing some of our favorite characters from 2011. I love pointing out characters that have left an impression on me, because—though every great book needs great characters—not all great characters come from our favorite overall stories. It’s a different way to think about all the books I read, and I’m happy to say that the characters I listed (split into five girls and five boys, in no particular order) have stuck with me like good friends.

The Girls

Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Lola Nolan from Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door

Marya Morevna from Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless

Tris from Veronica Roth’s Divergent

Fire from Kristin Cashore’s Fire

I think Molly Quinn could pull off Fire's mix of strength and vulnerability

The Guys

Tiny Cooper from John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson Will Grayson

Dr. Pellinore Warthrop from Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist

Quentin from Lev Grossman’s The Magician King

Adam from Gayle Forman’s Where She Went

Warner from Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me

Aaron Johnson has the perfect self-satisfied smirk to play Warner

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Corrine Jackson

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

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