Booknotized

A place to think, reflect, and talk (mostly to myself) about books I love…and a few that I don't.

Influential Book of the Month: The Iliad by Homer January 11, 2012

 

 

The Iliad by Homer

 

Written around the 8th Century BC, this epic Greek poem about the
Trojan war has influenced countless classic authors with its tragic
and quintessential tale of hubris, love, and war. With hunks like Achilles
and Odysseus, hotties like Helen, and powers that be like Ares, Apollo,
and Aphrodite, it’s no wonder this book is also prime inspriation for
today’s YA otherworldly writers.

 

Known Progeny:

Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline B. Cooney
Nobody’s Princess and Nobody’s Prize by Esther M. Friesner
Troy by Adele Geras
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
The Memoirs of Helen of Troy by Amanda Elyot
Achilles: A Novel by Elizabeth Cook
 
 
 
 
 

Check out the IBoTM page for more titles that have helped shape today’s YA landscape.

 

Know of another bit of offspring from any of these books that isn’t listed here? Email it to me at booknotized[at]gmail[dot]com!

 

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Working With the 100: An Epic Adventure January 9, 2012

 
Now, I know how it looks. I’ve been fairly quiet over the last two months.
 
But that’s only because I’ve been consulting on what was probably the most exciting project ever: Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine’s 100 Greatest Books for Kids feature.

I knew when I took the job that it might mean I had to stay quiet on the blogging front for a little while, but, I mean, who could turn it down?
 
For several solid months, I got to spend my nights and weekends reading, thinking and writing about my absolute favorite topic—books for young people (which I would have been doing anyway…shhh!)—as I worked to curate the list with the expert contributors and amazing editorial team at P&C.
 
In short, I had a blast.
 
While this took up most of my extracurricular reading time, I also couldn’t really post about it: it was TOP secret. Well, at least until the website went live! (At which point I collapsed into a heap and was transported unconsciously to the land of turkey and gift wrap.) Hence my (unusually) un-loquacious state.
 
Despite my tardiness in posting, however, I couldn’t be prouder of the final product. Not only does it cover 100 of the best books written and in print for Ages 0-12 (culled from a list of over 500 titles suggested by literacy experts, Scholastic editors, and parents!), but the website is a TON of fun to play with!
 

Check out the interactive website where 10 books will be revealed every week in the countdown to the mysterious #1!

Be sure to investigate all the widgets and enter for a chance to win a copy of 1 of the titles every week.

 

 
 
You can sort by Fiction/Nonfiction (and fiction type), Age Group, Award Winners, and more. Once you have your list, click on the book covers to find out more about each individual title.
 

 
As an added treat, the magazine editors and I chose 10 books throughout the list that grabbed our attention for various reasons, such as “Best Bedtime Book,” “Most Exciting Ending,” and “Favorite Fantastic Setting.”
 
Click here to find out more about the 100 Greatest Books for Kids feature: why we did it, how we did it, what’s up next, and more.
 
Then, be sure to subscribe to P&C asap if you want to receive a print copy of the March issue that will contain all of this and more.
 
 

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * GIVEAWAY! * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

 
Now, I want to hear from you. Let me know: what books would YOU have put on the list? What would have been your number one? Be sure to include your email address with your answer! (Or leave a comment on this post.) One lucky winner will get a copy of one of the books from the list in their age group of choice. (Book to be supplied by moi, and this giveaway is in no way affiliated with Parent & Child.)
 

 

 

 

Series Review: Incarceron / Sapphique by Catherin Fisher November 4, 2011

Publisher: Dial
Release Date: January 26, 2010; December 28, 2010
Age Group: YA (utterly gratuitous mature language; mild graphic violence)
Pages: 448; 480
Rating: Idea 5★; Execution 2★
Genre: dystopia, sci-fi, & (some) fantasy with overtones of steampunk
 

★★1/2

Claudia lives in The Realm—a place where an Era of Victorianesque habit and aesthetic is enforced by a malevolent monarchy. She dreams only of escape from the life that has been planned for her. Her only solace is her tutor, Jared, who has been more of a father to her than her own morose parent, John Arlexa the Warden of Incarceron. At least she is Outside.

Inside, Finn lives, and has lived for the three long years of his life that he is able to remember. He, too, longs to Escape from the miserable existence within the great sentient, malevolent Prison to which he—and all others deemed undesirable or superfluous by the aristocracy—have been sentenced.

All too quickly, as age-old plots and schemes come to fruition, Finn and Claudia’s fates are thrust together. The future of both worlds, it seems, depends on their ability to unlock the secrets that lie deep within.
 

________________________________________________________________________________

 

As I tweeted the other night, I have rarely been as frustrated or disillusioned by a book or series as I was when I closed the cover on this one.

The idea is magnificent—something like The Matrix, something like The Scarlet Pimpernel, and still something like Mad Max and Blade Runner.

However, the idea’s execution in writing was deplorable, cheap, and utterly unsatisfying. You know how it was with Lost? Where the opening was fairly explosive and mysterious, but as the seasons dragged on it slowly became apparent that the writers had no long-term plan for the plot? No real ingenious answer to the mystery?

And everyone remained hopeful, despite being dragged on for eons by endlessly convenient twists, turns, and dramatic fluff, because they thought there surely would be some masterfully big reveal to tie it all together in the end?

★★1/2

Well, that was exactly my experience with these books, except without the hunky actors and special effects to tide a girl over. Full of fluff; unartful writing; and bad, see-through dialogue; impromptu/incongruous twists when the plot looked sure to dead-end; flat characters who neither were fully explained nor grew a millimeter over the course of 928 pages, and were often self-contradictory…

And, then, like the Lost finale, no questions answered. If anything, more were introduced, as if to cover the tracks of an MIA direction—yet again.
 
I am almost angry at myself for reading it. I knew at the end of Incarceron (bk. 1) that the execution was shoddy (I even tweeted my feelings), but was so curious about how the idea would come together that I convinced myself to keep going. I remained hopeful to the very end—past elements that didn’t really work in the world (the “Incarceron” beast; the “chain gang,” children born—as opposed to healed or reconstructed—with metal parts), or with the characters (Keiro’s fickleness; the Queen’s pseudo-evilness; the Warden’s loss of the key vs. the trio’s ability to keep the glove; the Prison’s simultaneous omnipotence and impotence, whichever suited the moment; etc), but were instead just convenient to the goose-chase of a plot.

I even clung on through the last few pages when things got really weird, and it seemed impossible that it could ever be satisfactorily pulled together, all the while thinking, Surely; surely no one would have published an idea this ambitious without a real, clever, mind-blowing ending.

This book has gotten lots of buzz. Taylor Lautner is starring in the movie, for goodness sake. Surely they wouldn’t…

But they did.

 
I think—if someone figures out how to salvage the plot/ending—it will be a truly wicked movie. But, as a book?

There are so many good, strong, dystopian/steampunk novels out there—The Hunger Games (bk 1), Birthmarked, Fever Crumb, etc. I would normally never do this—I am a book champion—but I suggest spending your reading time on the above and waiting to see Incarceron on screen.

 

My Personal Bookprint October 22, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, as part of a side project I’ve been working on with a parenting magazine, I happened to be collecting data from a website that prompted me to stop and think about the 5 books that have influenced me most, or my “bookprint,” as it was called.

This will be easy, I thought. So, I settled in to my couch cushion, and began what I assumed would be a quick process of popping in a few titles and moving on. One hour and one sleeping leg later, This is really hard, was going through my mind. And, I think most people who have read consistently throughout their lives will probably have a similar experience.

However, it was totally worthwhile. So worthwhile, in fact, that I wanted to take a few minutes to share my results and encourage others to do the same. What the exercise did was twofold: it not only made me stop and remember all of the wonderful books that have made an impact on me throughout my life – those little explosions of awe that were bright enough to still be echoing around in my mind – but also caused me to see myself somewhat differently, to understand myself better. You see, the process of elimination (because you can only have 5), really made me stop and think if I’m being honest, truly, transparently honest, then which books, which reading experiences really define me? and why?

Some of the results were expected. A couple of them surprised even me.

What didn’t surprise me all that much was that all of the books that ended up on the final list were ones I read as a young person (before 15). After all, that’s when we’re most impressionable, it’s when the basis of our personalities, outlook, and worldview are formed. It’s also an era of books I have yet to let go…and may never. I am what I read, then and now.

 
The website was Scholastic’s You Are What You Read. It’s a part of their “Read Every Day, Lead a Better Life” campaign, which is in turn coupled to their very unique Reading Bill of Rights document. “Literacy – the ability to read, write and understand – is the birthright of every child in the world…” meant a lot to me before this little exercise. But, having had the opportunity to think more deeply about how books have shaped who I am today, I find it now means a whole lot more.
 
Think about it: Who would we (as human beings) be without books?
 
 

Here’s my bookprint. What’s yours?

 
1) The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter books (my own love of them and their phenomenal success worldwide) inspired me to think – and write my masters thesis – about the ways in which literary society is forming and reforming around and apart from postmodernism, expanding into something new. I think that the HP books have shaped our culture irrevocably, and for the better. They’ve opened us back up to “positive possibility” (as opposed to the “negative possibility” promoted by much of theory in the last 100 years) and that is saying something.

 
2) Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I saw (and subsequently developed) a lot of myself in Anne: using big words, being feisty and independent, doing everything “to the max,” and loving wholeheartedly. She helped me understand that those were good qualities, and that I should always be true to that piece of my nature.

On a humorous side note, I asked for the films for Christmas last year, and got Anne of Avonlea from my sister. We (my sisters, brother, husband, and I) stayed up all night watching the 4-hr, 2-disc classic, most of which I was convinced my husband would miss. I just didn’t think it was his kind of thing. However, when the closing credits came on, he was still wide awake, staring thoughtfully at the screen. Then, he turns slowly toward me and studies my face for a moment before saying, “Hhh. Now I understand you,” and stands up to head to bed.

 
3) Gone With the Wind by Margarett Mitchell

This was actually a last-minute substitution. It bumped The Chronicles of Narnia (*gasp!*), which I did not think was possible. However, when I stopped to examine myself more closely, I realized that a lot of Scarlett – like Anne – lives on in me. She taught me that women can be strong, brash even, and still be desirable; make mistakes and recover from them; march on through the difficulties that life, society, and a patriarchal system have handed her, and be ok enough to look forward to “tomorrow.”

 
4) The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

Another surprise for me, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been. I can still, very clearly, recall my mother reading this book to us. She, through this book, provided me with a mantra (and philosophy) that has lasted a lifetime. “I think I can,” has gotten me through some of the toughest times of my life, and I am definitely a different person for it.

 
5) Wynken, Blynken, and Nod by Eugene Field

Finally, this book (or, poem, I really should say), though it might surprise some that I included it, didn’t surprise me. At least not this year. I actually realized that this work belonged on my list many years ago during an undergraduate course that was partially on children’s literature. First introduced to me in an elementary school spelling book, Field’s elegant poem opened my eyes to the world of beautiful text and the power of metaphor. It helped shape the books I read thereafter, and is an important piece of the reader, writer, and editor that I am today.

 
 

Finally, because it’s really just not fair to leave them out, here are the books that didn’t make it in, but really should be up there, too:

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swam by E. B. White
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
Green Eggs and Ham and Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm by Robert C. O’Brien
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Mother Goose
The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Where the Wild Things Areby Maurice Sendak
The Wind the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
. . . and many, many, many more.

 

Title Trend? July 5, 2011

Filed under: Books,Random Things to Say — Booknotized @ 10:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

So, I’ve noticed a recent trend in YA lit titling, and, I must admit, I’m not really sure what to make of it.

On the one hand, these titles lend a kind of resounding grandeur to the stories they represent.

On the other hand (or perhaps the other side of that same hand?), one can only take seriously so much resounding grandeur…

Of course, it would help if you knew what I was talking about. Should I say? Yes. I’ll say.

As I was thinking about this post, I got curious to see just how many there were. I finally stopped when I got to 100 (below). I recommend reading them aloud one-by-one in the very serious kind of voice you know they’re supposed to inspire. It’s kind of fun – if you’re into that sort of thing.

Now, it’s not that I have anything at all against one-word titles. In fact, when I ran across it for the first time (Maggie Steifvater’s Shiver, as it happens), the cold, quiet, lonely word on the cover was actually one of the things that piqued my curiosity about the book. And, in my research, I discovered a few others that I find really enticing: Incarceron, Sapphique, Evercrossed, Paranormalcy, Demonglass. (Not that I’m advocating these books, btw – I haven’t read them, or many of the ones below – just pulled titles from a quick survey of Amazon).

Maybe it’s the originality of the words above, or the use of two words to make one (demon + glass, ever + crossed) that makes those five stand out from the others that I found today. The rest just feel like loaded words, and really familiar ones at that…(it’s like a shortlist of important YA paranormal-world concepts.) The first three or four might sound grand, but after a while, they kind of drone on. I just can’t help feeling that there is a…well, lack of creativity happening here. Why not give a fan more context to go by? Make a title stand out with its eye-catching cleverness. It’s not like we can’t handle compound-complexities……right?

I dunno. I’d love to get some authors’ takes on this. Where do these titles come from? How are agents/editors involved? Is it by author choice?

More importantly, what do you (fellow readers) think?

(starting with the adjectives)

  1. Immortal
  2. Everlasting
  3. Divergent
  4. Gossamer
  5. Fallen
  6. Stolen
  7. Driven
  8. Broken
  9. Hidden
  10. Fallen
  11. Torn
  12. Sensitive
  13. Pure
  14. Teenie
  15. Popular
  16. Spellbound
  17. Immortal
  18. Unearthly
  19. Errant
  20. Bittersweet
  21. Unnatural
    (among which are the -eds)
  22. Bumped
  23. Marked
  24. Abandoned
  25. Blessed
  26. Entwined
  27. Intertwined
  28. Betrayed
  29. Matched
  30. Crossed
  31. Twisted
  32. Switched
  33. Destined
  34. Loved
  35. Turned
  36. Exiled
  37. Birthmarked
  38. Ruined
  39. Pursued
  40. Hushed
  41. Unfriended
  42. Rumored
  43. Unhooked
  44. Enticed
  45. Blacklisted
    (the verbs…)
  46. Captivate
  47. Haunt
  48. Swoon
  49. Taste
  50. Wither
  51. Ascend
  52. Flutter
  53. Wake
  54. Linger
  55. Shiver
    (the adverbs…)
  56. Forever (also a noun)
  57. Nevermore (also possibly a name)
    (the nouns)
  58. Passion
  59. Absolution
  60. Silence
  61. Sniper
  62. Revolution
  63. Dreamland
  64. Endgame
  65. Identity
  66. Feather
  67. Denial
  68. Clarity
  69. Illusions
  70. Fate
  71. Wisdom
  72. Healer
  73. Tithe
  74. Plague
  75. Hades
  76. Gateway
  77. Glimpse
  78. Shade
  79. Ash
  80. Wings
  81. Numbers
  82. Wasteland
  83. Firelight
  84. Legacy
  85. Adversary
  86. Torment
  87. Crescendo
  88. Promise
  89. Halo
  90. Feather
  91. Firelight
  92. Illusions
  93. Torment
  94. Hourglass
  95. Need
  96. Betrayal
  97. Descendant
    (the names…)
  98. Raven
  99. Lori
  100. Lissie

et cetera

 

 
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